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Photos: New Foundry to provide mental health, substance-use services for Tri-Cities youth

A new program called Foundry is coming to the Tri-Cities to provide help for youth aged 12 to 24.

Young people in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody will soon have access to much-needed mental-health and substance-use supports when a long-awaited Foundry centre comes to the Tri-Cities.

In the works for three years, Foundry Tri-Cities will offer people between the ages of 12 and 24 multiple services, including drop-in counselling, physical and sexual health care, as well as youth and family peer support.

The announcement was made today (July 19) by Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.'s minister of mental health and addictions, before a crowd of municipal politicians, social service agency representatives and school trustees.

"The Tri-Cities will be a 'beacon' for free, confidential and age-friendly supports," said Malcolmson, who said youth may find a "sense of community and a sense of belonging," when they show up at the door.

$800K in start-up funding

She said the regional Foundry will provide help so that "small problems don't become big ones."

Funding coming for the project includes:

  • One-time funding of $1 million toward the establishment of the centre and $200,000 in operating funds.
  • In addition, the Province will be providing annual funding towards operations and services:
    • $500,000 in year 2
    • $800,000 in year 3

Operated by SHARE Family and Community Services Society, Foundry will be a one-stop-shop where youth can get services in one location without a referral or languishing on a waiting list.

SHARE CEO Claire MacLean said youth are facing numerous challenges that weren't imagined 30 years ago, including climate change, social media, food and housing insecurity and a toxic drug supply.

She said it's important for youth to have a place where they can go to feel comfortable to share their concerns.

Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson said Foundry would be a way for Tri-Cities' youth to have the community's "collective arms wrapped around them."

Among those who praised the announcement was kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation (Kwikwetlem) Chief Ed Hall, who gave the opening address and said he appreciated the work of agencies to back a proposal that would provide much-need support for youth.

Carol Todd, mother to Amanda Todd who killed herself after being sexually extorted and bullied on line, said she also welcomes the news of Foundry coming to the Tri-Cities.

"I know this is what is needed in this community," said Todd, noting that youth could approach the Foundry no matter what stage they are at and "you would be supported."

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart also described the Foundry as a significant addition to mental health services for youth, suggesting early intervention by Foundry staff could prevent worsening mental health condiitons and even hospitalization.

Mental health access and staffing concerns

The timing of the announcement comes as a new mental health task force led by School District 43 (SD43) has identified a "lack of access" to service for children and youth.

Kerri Palmer Isaak, an Anmore trustee who heads up the task force, said she welcomed the news of a new Foundry and said she hoped it would have enough staffing to deal with the needs of the Tri-Cities' growing youth population.

"Wait lists are not really the goal," she told the Tri-City News.

In addition to providing access, with appropriate staffing, Palmer Isaak also said more needs to done to advertise services so youth know where to go when they need help.

However, she said the announcement of Foundry coming to the Tri-Cities is an important step in providing service for youth, a comment that was also echoed by SD43 board chair Michael Thomas.

"We were hoping to see this move forward," said Thomas. "It will be a good addition to support services."

Space needed for Foundry offices

SD43 was among several agencies that applied to the B.C. government for a Foundry, and the announcement is long-awaited, Thomas said.

Meanwhile, a location close to transit is being sought to provide Foundry services, said SHARE's MacLean, and it will likely be a few years before a Foundry opens because a location needs to be found, staffing arranged and a model of care finalized.

There are 13 Foundry centres open throughout the province, including Vancouver-Granville, North Shore (North Vancouver), Campbell River, Ridge Meadows, Abbotsford, Kelowna, Prince George, Victoria, Penticton, Richmond, Terrace, Comox Valley and Langley.

In a news release, Foundry's executive director said he was pleased to be working with the Tri-Cities on a new centre.

“Young people deserve access to free mental-health and wellness resources within their community,” said Dr. Steve Mathias. “As we expand our network of centres across B.C., we’re thrilled to partner with the Tri-Cities to continue offering vital services that respond to the needs of young people and families.”

In the meantime, until the centre opens, Tri-Cities youth can receive virtual support via an Foundry Virtual BC app.