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Committee working to provide easier access to mental health services for youth

Last Updated Nov 8, 2019 at 11:09 am MDT

PHOTO. Supplied.

A local steering committee is working to make mental health supports for youth between 11 and 24 years old easier to access.

The Integrated Youth Hub Strategy is a province-wide initiative which aims to coordinate access to mental health supports and treatments.

Paula Galenzoski, manager of the Integrated Youth Hub Strategy said many people don’t know how to access the services they may need.

“My vision is to have a schedule where that connector, or that outreach person, will be at different places all week at different times to capture as many groups as we can.”

The initiative will create access points in schools and other spaces across the region.

The access points will have an outreach coordinator who will work with the youth and their caregivers in a single intake process to figure out the “right service, with the right provider, at the right time.”

School counsellors will also be able to refer students to the coordinator.

Galenzoski added that acute treatment or serious cases often need to be referred to resources outside of Wood Buffalo.

“It doesn’t matter where people fall on the socioeconomic spectrum, people have trouble navigating the system.”

She said that she wants youth to be involved in the development and design of the process and the physical space since they will be using it.

“We really need to be reflective and look at how we are involving them in this process. It’s not going to work if they’re not a part of it.”

A steering committee made up of The Fort McMurray Public School District, Fort McMurray Catholic Schools District, Northland School Division, Alberta Health Services, Canadian Mental Health Association Wood Buffalo, and the Government of Alberta, among others, has been working on the initiative since January.

While one study shows that over one-third of students showed signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 18 months post-wildfire, Galenzoski said our region isn’t unique in having trouble accessing supports so “the ball would still be rolling” had the wildfire not impacted the community.

Galenzoski said Wood Buffalo is one of 11 communities that are in the development phase.

She said while they’re still in their early stages of development they’re working quickly and plan to launch in early 2020.