News / Vancouver

Foundry youth mental health clinics fundraise to expand B.C.-wide

‘One-stop shops’ for teens and young adults’ health needs got a big boost from two benefactors—who will match donations until Wednesday.

Philanthropists Diane and Bob Conconi (third and fifth from left, respectively) meet with Vancouver youth in support of Foundry B.C.'s integrated health services for under-24s, soon to expand province-wide starting in summer 2017.

Supplied/Foundry B.C.

Philanthropists Diane and Bob Conconi (third and fifth from left, respectively) meet with Vancouver youth in support of Foundry B.C.'s integrated health services for under-24s, soon to expand province-wide starting in summer 2017.

"We want to make sure youth have easy access during their time of need and long-term," explained psychiatrist Dr. Steve Mathias.

After two years, the Vancouver health initiative he directs has connected nearly 1,000 teens and young adults with mental, medical and social services — and it's now preparing for its big expansion across British Columbia.

Envisioned by St. Paul’s Hospital psychiatrists as a “one-stop shop” for young British Columbians under 24 struggling to navigate the province’s mental health, medical and addiction treatment systems, Foundry B.C. is about to open more youth-focused clinics across B.C.

The expansion is bolstered by provincial backing and a $1-million fundraising effort that ends Wednesday.

“Youth and young adults have told us again and again that when you’re a teenager, you’re often put on a long waitlist, it can be difficult to know where to go for help, and that mental health and substance use services aren’t integrated,” explained Mathias, the organization’s executive director and head of St. Paul's psychiatry, in a phone interview.

“We realized very early there are a lot of services in various communities trying to support youth — doing the best they can — but that they’re often working in silos. We needed a solution that broke down those silos.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association B.C. estimates that up to 58,000 youth in the province are not treated for mental health and substance use issues, and that significantly more funding, coordination and preventive interventions are needed.

In April, Foundry’s original clinic, the 2015-founded Granville Youth Health Centre, was joined by a second site in Campbell River. And soon, more of the youth-focused clinics are set to open on the North Shore this July, in Prince George and Kelowna soon after, and then in Abbotsford this fall, Mathias said. Five more will follow next year.

“This model, to be clear, isn’t all about new funding,” he said. “A lot of it is existing resources and services coming together and working under one roof.

“When youth come in, it could be because they broke up with boyfriend, or they have a rash and don’t know what caused it, or they’re coming in with psychosis or severe depression.”

If what the youth needs isn’t available on-site, clinic staff ensure they are helped “to bridge them to a stepped-up service” instead of leaving them to fend for themselves with whatever health issue they’re concerned about.

“We really hope this is a model that will spread across the province,” Mathias said.

Foundry’s expansion to more B.C. cities — several of them facing disproportionate rates of youth addiction and opioid overdoses — coincides with a St. Paul’s fundraising campaign that’s gained the attention of two wealthy benefactors — Diane and Bob Conconi.

Philanthropists Bob (left) and Diane Conconi, of the Conconi Foundation, have contributed to numerous health-related causes in British Columbia since his retirement from the financial services sector, including Foundry B.C. Integrated Youth Services Initiative and the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

Supplied/Conconi Foundation

Philanthropists Bob (left) and Diane Conconi, of the Conconi Foundation, have contributed to numerous health-related causes in British Columbia since his retirement from the financial services sector, including Foundry B.C. Integrated Youth Services Initiative and the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

The couple made headlines in 2014 after donating the luxurious Pender Island home they built to the B.C. Cancer Foundation, following Bob’s own battle with throat cancer.

Three years later, the two philanthropists offered to match any contributions to the youth mental health project until this Wednesday, up to $500,000.

Bob Conconi is a retired financial services entrepreneur who co-founded Canadian Securities Registration Systems.

For more information about Foundry B.C. — formerly the BC Integrated Youth Services Initiative — visit the organization's website. To donate before Wednesday, visit St. Paul's Foundation's website.

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