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B.C. funds consultation on northern centre of excellence for children, youth

CANADA, January 16 - People in northern B.C. communities will have an opportunity to participate in a consultation and engagement process to help design and plan programs and services for a proposed regional centre to help children and youth thrive.

“Young people in northern B.C. in a mental-health or addiction crisis should be able to get care that meets their needs close to home. This is especially important for young Indigenous people in the North who need to access culturally appropriate services and supports,” said Premier David Eby. “When youth are in crisis, if they are not connected to the care that is right for them, it can often mean that small problems turn into much bigger problems down the road as results. That’s why we’re pleased to move forward with this work to bring needed support to the heart of northern B.C. through a northern centre of excellence for children and youth.”

The Lheidli T’enneh First Nation will lead the community consultation process, beginning in late spring 2024, with financial support from the Province. The engagement stems from a proposal by the First Nation that envisions a centre offering a multitude of services, such as mental-health and addictions services, neurocognitive assessments and other wellness programs for children and youth. Feedback will help determine the types of programs and services that could be offered through the proposed centre.  

“Today’s announcement is good news for our future generations, those kids who are struggling today and the kids who haven’t yet faced struggle, but may one day,” said Chief Dolleen Logan of Lheidli T’enneh First Nation. “We need to ask ourselves: If we can find ways to help those kids before they fall between the cracks, how much better could our communities be? How much stronger and more resilient will our children be?”

The engagement will bring together a wide range of partners and community members, including local government, surrounding First Nations, service providers and individual members of the public to contribute to the development of a potential service model that addresses regional needs in a culturally sensitive manner. The Lheidli T’enneh First Nation will collect feedback through virtual outreach, in-person meetings and a digital platform. The Province has committed $675,385 to support the consultation and engagement work.

“Through this funding, we are enabling the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation to lead a thorough consultation process,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “It’s essential that any future services are shaped by the voices and experiences of those they are meant to support, particularly Indigenous youth in northern B.C.”

A final report and proposed service model plan will be developed based on feedback received during the engagement and is expected in summer 2024. The engagement funding forms part of the Province’s $171.1-million fund established in Budget 2023, to support health initiatives led by Indigenous groups.

Learn More:

To learn about mental-health and substance-use supports in B.C., visit:
https://helpstartshere.gov.bc.ca/

Learn about mental-health and substance-use resources in Northern Health:
https://www.northernhealth.ca/services/mental-health-substance-use

Learn about mental-health and substance-use supports through First Nations Health Authority:
https://www.fnha.ca/what-we-do/mental-wellness-and-substance-use