By COLLIN GALLANT on July 21, 2021.
Young people seeking help for mental health or addictions issues can now “knock on any door” of social service agencies in Medicine Hat to receive referrals for specific needs, the province and local coordinating agency announced Tuesday.
Associate minister of Mental Health and Addictions Mike Ellis told a gathering at Police Point Park that $7.3 million will be spent across the province over three years to develop “youth mental health hubs” in 10 locations, an announcement that included Rebecca Schulz, the minister of Children’s Services.
Medicine Hat is currently one of seven in operations, and though the “hub” has no physical location, local officials said it will engage youth where they currently seek a range of social services and connect them more easily to expanded service “when they need it most.”
“It puts the onus on us to create a social safety net that meets youth needs in a specific manner,” said Tracie Mutschler, the executive director of the local office of McMan Youth, Family and Community Services.
That agency will guide the implementation of record sharing and case files that go between a variety of in-place social service agencies in the city, and even with other jurisdictions if young people move or are transient.
McMan in Medicine Hat currently has four referral clients for the service since it opened several weeks ago, and 17 more will be officially processed this week.
Schulz said providers risk losing clients if it is difficult to navigate systems, and this would “break down silos” between organizations.
“This will get you to the services you need,” she said, citing housing, counselling, aid with addictions or more general supports.
The Canadian Mental Health Association is also involved. Ellis said $3 million will be spent in the first year.
“Youth mental health hubs are a tremendous example of how community partnerships and community-driven services can make a difference in the lives of our young people,” he said.
Hubs are also being developed in Fort Saskatchewan, Drayton Valley, Fort McMurray, Spruce Grove/Stony Plain, Grande Prairie and the Enoch and Samson Cree First Nations.
Schulz told the crowd that small urban and rural communities were the focus of initial centres as larger centres can have a wider array programming.
MLA Michaela Glasgo told the assembled crowd that the focus on youth will help destigmatize seeking out help.