Peace Arch News publishes a monthly column for the White Rock-South Surrey Division of Family Practice addressing issues surrounding youth mental health.
This month, Dr. David Smith addresses services provided by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
When a mental-health issue arises with a child or youth, many families are surprised to learn that the responsibility for community-based services for assessment and ongoing treatment rests with the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
While your child or teen may initially get help from a family doctor, an emergency room visit or a hospital admission, if ongoing treatment is needed you will likely access it through one of more than 90 walk-in intake clinics provided through the ministry’s Child and Youth Mental Health Services (CYMH).
In White Rock, the clinic is housed with the Vine Youth Clinic at 15455 Vine Ave., across from the Peace Arch Hospital ER, with intakes every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (For other regions, call Service BC at 1-800-661-8773.)
If urgent care is required, you can contact the office during regular hours – you do not need to wait for an intake clinic. In an emergency, call 911 or go to your local emergency room.
The following numbers can also help during a mental-health or substance-use crisis:
1. Crisis Line 310-6789
2. Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
3. YouthinBC 24/7 crisis line at 1-866-661-3311, or their online chat, noon-1 a.m. daily.
Like a walk-in-medical clinic, you can visit the ministry clinic with your child during intake hours, or teens can show up on their own without parents, if preferred. Once there, you’ll fill out an information form, including symptoms and concerns.
An intake clinician will meet with you privately to engage in a brief pre-screening interview.
The clinician will decide: Is an urgent response required? Do you simply need more information, resources and/or validation and support? Would a referral to another community service best meet your child’s needs? Or is a full intake interview needed?
If a full intake interview is needed, the clinician will take more time to determine your need for services. These may include anything from assessment, diagnosis and treatment by a specialist psychiatrist, or to work with other mental-health practitioners, such as a nurse or clinical counsellor.
At the end of the intake meeting, you will get a brief plan for initial supports and services.
While there may be wait-lists for specific treatments, the intake process is greatly simplified and only takes a couple of hours.
“The process is becoming simpler, clearer and more responsive to children, youth and families,” notes Terry Cardle, supervisor of CYMH services for White Rock.
Parents agree. As one of my patients recently noted: “I was pleasantly surprised at how easy and welcoming this experience has been…. The clinician made us feel comfortable and at ease while talking about some really tough issues concerning my daughter.”
Dr. David Smith is a B.C. adolescent psychiatrist. The White-Rock South Surrey Local Action Team is one of 64 teams working together across B.C. to increase the number of children, youth and their families receiving access to mental health services.