Putting Youth at the Centre

Promise Magazine: Fall/Winter 2016

Following earlier reports in Promise, the BC Integrated Youth Services Initiative (BC-IYSI) has since launched its “proof-of-concept phase” and announced that its five independent panel-recommended storefront-style centres will be located in North Vancouver, Kelowna, Campbell River, Prince George and Abbotsford.

The centres are loosely modelled after the St. Paul’s Granville Youth Health Centre (GYHC) in Vancouver. The goal of the BC-IYSI and participating local organizations, however, is to develop the centres to reflect each community.

“Every community is so unique,” says Sarah Irving, a peer support worker at the GYHC. “With the [GYHC], a lot of our clients are homeless and street entrenched, and our community partners are agencies and resources that serve a population of homeless youth. But that isn’t necessarily a model that’s going to fit the centres in different communities across the province.”

With access to comprehensive health and social services, web-based supports and telephone help lines, the centres will bridge critical transition points, while the approachable setting and holistic treatment will help youth not only with their mental health and substance use issues, but also with improved outcomes in work, school, or finding employment.

Support from the Robert L. Conconi Foundation bolsters progress for the initiative, with Foundation president Bob Conconi saying his intent was sparked by an appreciation for how St. Paul’s operates.

“St. Paul’s is responsive,” says Conconi. “They appreciate the changing needs of patients and they make changes, sometimes bold changes, to better serve them.”

Established in 2003, the Foundation focuses on health care, poverty and economic security, and education. It also has in its mandate to fund across the province, so it recognizes the potential for the new centres to lay groundwork for a larger, province-wide network.

In his research, Conconi spotted a pattern amongst young patients with mental health, problematic substance use, or other health or social service needs: adult clinics can be traumatizing. This prompted him to look at the BC-IYSI, whose model of care places the young people themselves at its centre, a dynamic which Conconi describes as “a transformational shift” in how we care for our young people – empowering them to thrive.

St. Paul's Foundation