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Foundry helping more youth combat mental illness

Lake Country Calendar - 11/13/2017

The impact of the Foundry Kelowna wellness centre is being felt by local agencies that offer mental health care services for youth.

Since the Foundry's initial soft launch in August through October, some 200 young people have walked through the doors of the centre on Kirschner Road seeking access to mental health services.

Mike Gawliuk, director of service delivery for the Canadian Mental Health Association Kelowna branch and leading advocate behind the Foundry initiative, says there isn't necessarily a higher prevalence of issues teenagers but more are reaching out now.

"The key word is access. When young people or their parents don't know where to turn, the Foundry offers a place to start. It may not end there, but it's a place to go and tell your story and start to get your situation sorted out rather than be pin-balled between different organizations dealing with different mandates, workloads and funding issues," said Gawliuk.

The Foundry was created with three-year seed money from the provincial government along with fundraising support from the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation. It is a service hub that started in Vancouver and in Kelowna brings together 11 agencies under one roof to provide diagnosis, support and intervention services coupled with a walk-in clinic.

Related: One stop shop for youth mental health care needs

April Butler, president of the B.C. Schizophrenia Society branch in Kelowna, said they have seen a dramatic upsurge in clients seeking support for mental health issues in recent months.

"Where we might have 10 folks come to us in a month seeking help, now it is 30 to 40," Butler said.

Gawliuk said the Foundry may contribute to that, but in a way beyond just agency referrals.

"I think the profile of the Foundry and the participation of the KGH Foundation alone has given more of a public face to mental health issues," he said.

"With greater public awareness about mental health comes the opportunity for it to move into the mainstream of health care and be treated in the same way other health care issues."

The Foundry concept, he added, is about bringing different support agencies together to collaborate.

Related: Youth mental illness needs support

"When multiple agencies work more closely together, it creates efficiencies and allows a response to people's needs in a more timely manner."

That increase in service demand, he says, will hopefully translate into more badly needed funding for mental health care services.

"If the demand is there for more services and the stigma reduction is there, those are steps in the right direction to help influence change in the flow of funding," Gawliuk said.

To that end, the NDP government also created a new ministry of mental health and addictions, which Gawliuk and others in the mental health care field hope will place greater attention and funding on treatment.

"It's really cool to see what is happening there now," Gawliuk said of the Foundry. "I was there for a meeting the other day and looking around, in one room was a substance abuse workshop, in another was a yoga class, in another room was a cognitive behaviour therapy group and in another was a parent support group. And a doctor was in at the walk-in clinic.

"That is the result of partnerships and different organizations coming together."

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