VANCOUVER — The British Columbia government is rolling out what it says will be a "seamless system" to help those with mental health or addiction challenges.
Judy Darcy, minister of mental health and addictions, says A Pathway to Hope is a 10-year vision for care aimed at quickly assisting and supporting those in need.
Darcy and Premier John Horgan made the announcement at Mountainside Secondary School in North Vancouver, saying four priorities highlight the first three years of the program.
The priorities include a focus on the wellness of children, youth and young adults, supporting Indigenous-led solutions and improving the quality of care while removing barriers, such as the cost of long-term counselling.
Darcy says the fourth priority will establish improved systems of addictions care, building on work done already to address the overdose crisis.
The minister says the NDP government has already committed $2.5-billion for mental health and substance abuse services.
She says funding for the newly announced initiatives is in addition to previous commitments and includes $10 million in grants to non-profits offering affordable counselling.
"We are not cutting the overall budget, we are adding to it," she said.
Programs due over the next three years include more access to affordable counselling and support, integrated teams bringing mental health services to locations where young patients feel safest, and more centres offering health and wellness resources and supports directly to 11- to 19-year-olds.
Two new intensive day programs will be available for children and youth with severe mental health or substance use challenges who are leaving hospital care, and the Ministry says 20 new family care home spaces will be developed as an alternative to hospitalization.
Some of the programs can be launched very quickly, and proposals would be issued immediately seeking agencies ready to offer affordable counselling, Darcy says.
"So that's going to go out right away, with a very short timeline for people to get in their applications, and then the money would flow very quickly."
Horgan said too little attention has been paid to mental health and substance use care by previous governments.
"A Pathway to Hope lays out our plan to help people now and improve the health and wellness of all British Columbians in the long term," he said.
We're taking a provincewide approach to build a system of care where services are always within reach and people have the supports and opportunities they need."
The B.C. division of the Canadian Mental Health Association said the government's move to focus on prevention and early intervention is a great start.
Division CEO Jonny Morris said future funding to the system and community, a focused look on workforce needs and an implementation plan and targets will help make the plan a reality.
"We know that the system needs to move from responding to crises towards supporting people early in illness, before things get worse. We need to work proactively so people stay healthy in the first place. That is no small shift, but it is imperative we get there, and this plan is a great beginning point."