Kelowna youth mental health centre doesn’t deter Penticton effort

Funding for a youth service centre focused on mental health which a Penticton group applied for has gone to Kelowna.

Premier Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark

Funding for a youth service centre focused on mental health which a Penticton group applied for has gone to Kelowna.

Read more: Spike in youth mental health issues in Penticton

Foundry Kelowna, a new integrated youth-service centre launched this week, could still result in some positives for Penticton if the pilot project is successful.

“I think that it will provide the government with a model that works that they can roll out other locations,” said Community Foundation of the South Okanagan executive director Aaron McRann. “This is a bit of a step out for the government to be funding youth centres, so I certainly wish them all the best. If they can fund a youth centre and have it demonstrate success, then theoretically there might be more funding for more youth centres.”

The centre will bring existing services under one roof so families and young people can access a ‘one-stop shop’ for primary care, mental health and substance use, and social services.

The YES Project and Community Foundation are still in talks with the provincial government and community partners pushing forward on the youth centre in Penticton.

Read more: Penticton kids asking for help

Foundry Kelowna is one of the centres announced in June 2016 as part of a provincial network of easily accessible, youth-friendly mental-health, substance-use, primary-care and social-service sites hosted by local non-profit organizations. This model will allow for earlier therapeutic interventions, when mental-health problems are just emerging. Intervening early can help to prevent challenges with mental health from becoming more serious.

Dennis Tottenham, executive director for the South Okanagan branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association agreed with McRann there is potential for further funding in communities like Penticton down the road.

“It’s sort of a pilot project to develop a new model. Eventually there will be a youth centre, we hope, in the South Okanagan,” Tottenham said. “It’s really important to invest in prevention and community education and provide the supports that people need as early as possible.”

However, McRann doesn’t expect youth in Penticton and the South Okanagan to benefit directly from the services provided in Kelowna.

“Most kids that need services don’t have the capacity, either financially or just in their own ability to cope, perhaps, to get to a youth centre in Kelowna,” McRann said. “There is a little bit of that, that happens in the valley, most of our child psychology services are in Kelowna and families will make that trek because they have to.”

The journey can be onerous for an average, struggling family, McRann said. Accessibility issues are a big factor for the potential YES Project youth centre.

“If we’re thinking about being within a block of bus route in Penticton, what are the odds of a youth going to Kelowna?” McRann said. “That’s based on us talking to the youth, very directly.”

The search for a location and securing community funding partners are steps the YES Project is currently taking on, with McRann hoping to have the facility operating in some fashion in 2017. Efforts are also continuing for seeking assistance from the provincial government to receive funding on the operating end of things.

The Canadian Mental Health Association Kelowna Branch has partnered with the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation to raise a further $2 million dollars over the next three years to ensure Foundry Kelowna meets the unique needs in the local community.

-With files from Barry Gerding/Black Press