New Initiative Foundry Virtual Offers Free, Virtual Mental Health and Substance Use Counselling Service for Youth in British Columbia
British Columbia—A new online service is transforming mental health and substance use supports for youth across the province. Foundry Virtual offers free voice, video and online chat counselling, peer support and various groups for youth ages 12-24 and their caregivers. These confidential offerings can be accessed same-day, without referral. By providing drop-in counselling, peer support and family support in this low barrier format, Foundry Virtual aims to ensure support is available for young people seeking care during a time of exacerbated mental health challenges and decreased ability to access physical services.
The need is clear. Prior to the pandemic, 1 in 5 youth experienced mental health or substance use challenges, yet fewer than 25 percent received appropriate support. COVID-19 has heightened this across the population. Canadians increasingly feel lonely, depressed, anxious or engage in binge drinking. It is estimated that close to two million Canadians are predicted to show signs of traumatic stress, while British Columbia saw the highest number of overdose deaths in May 2020. As demand for additional mental health and substance use support increases, Foundry’s virtual services will meet this demand.
“Our physical centres across B.C. help thousands of youth face mental health and substance use challenges—and will continue to do so. During a time of crisis, we are deeply proud to support youth with a service that bypasses many of the barriers often faced, including distance, stigma or social isolation” said Dr. Steve Mathias, Executive Director of Foundry.
Foundry Virtual’s offerings include counselling, youth and family peer support, group sessions and workshops, and—in the coming months—primary care and social services. These virtual services will be delivered by counsellors, youth and family peer supporters, nurse practitioners, family doctors, psychiatrists, and vocational counsellors. All services are free of charge, and can be accessed Monday to Friday during afternoon and evening hours. Foundry aims to have services available weekdays from 1pm – 9pm within a matter of weeks.
Every offering was developed in close collaboration with young people, including those who already access Foundry’s services and those who do not currently have access. Ensuring meaningful engagement is at the forefront of the network’s model, which considers youth and families equal partners in program development and community building.
“Being a part of the Youth Advisory Committee at Foundry has been an unforgettable experience. This meant a lot to me because I have had my own personal struggles with mental illness. Building Foundry Virtual has positively impacted me and my mental health by giving me a sense of purpose. I feel so lucky to have been a part of this process, and to have been given an opportunity to speak up for something that is important to me. I know this program will provide support to many youth in their own mental health journeys.” explained Jane Doughty, a Virtual Care Youth Advisory Committee Member for Foundry.
The launch of Foundry Virtual comes just days after another exciting development for youth mental health in British Columbia. On June 15, The Province of British Columbia, together with Foundry, announced the launch of eight new Foundry centres to be located in Langley, Squamish, Comox Valley, Williams Lake, Burns Lake, Port Hardy, Surrey and Cranbrook. The virtual programs will provide yet another supportive layer to programming for young people—wherever they live in our province.
Foundry is removing barriers and increasing access to quality care through its province-wide network of integrated youth wellness centres for young people, ages 12 to 24, and their caregivers. Foundry centres bring mental health care, substance use services, primary care, youth and family peer support, and social services under one roof, making it easier for young people to find support in their communities. Online resources and virtual care further broaden Foundry’s reach.
Foundry’s network currently includes nine community-based, partnership-driven centres across BC–in Campbell River, Victoria, North Shore, Vancouver, Ridge Meadows, Abbotsford, Penticton, Kelowna, and Prince George, with two additional centres in Richmond and Terrace currently in development. An additional eight Foundry centres are set to open by 2023, bringing Foundry’s network of centres to a total of 19.
Meaningful engagement is the foundation of Foundry’s work—at governance, leadership, and community levels. Foundry engages over 150 partners across the province of BC, while Foundry’s central office, hosted by Providence Health Care, leads the provincial initiative and supports the development of local centres and Foundry Virtual. Foundry’s online platform, foundrybc.ca, is powered by BC Children’s Hospital.