Youth wanted to help design mental health service delivery

·2 min read

An organization looking to provide integrated mental health services for youth and young adults is seeking members of the community to help direct its development

The Wheatland Youth Network (WYN) is working towards an integrated youth service model linking youth and young adults aged 11 to 24 to “the right service at the right time,” explained Michelle Ryan, WYN community coordinator.

“We want to connect them with what their needs are with the community resources that are available in Strathmore,” said Ryan. “We would like to help them navigate that process.”

Integration could improve the quality and efficiency of mental health services that are provided locally, she explained. “Instead of people retelling what their needs are over and over again to different services, we want that hub where services come together and work collaboratively on one plan for one person at a time.”

The group started after the Calgary Rural Primary Care Network, through its physicians, identified a need for better mental health services for local youth, especially for those transitioning from youth services to adult services.

The WYN organization is in its infancy, having held its first community stakeholders meeting in February 2019. In March 2019, it was one of 10 sites in Alberta that received a grant from PolicyWise, funded by Alberta Health, to create an integrated hub for youth services.

The group is now seeking direction from two 10-member subcommittees, one composed of parents and caregivers, and another led by youth aged 15 to 17. Each group will meet from January through to March.

“We’re finding out what the needs of youth and young adults are in Strathmore and Wheatland (County), and how we can use that information going forward,” explained Ryan. “It’s really about information gathering and developing strong relationships with the people we want to work with.”

The youth subcommittee meets twice per month, for about one to two hours. While this subcommittee first met on Dec. 15, the group is looking for new members aged 15 to 17, to provide their perspectives and help direct the development of the organization.

The youth committee will shape future programming.

“It could grow into offering peer-and-peer support and training some of these youth to be mental health advocates,” she said. “I see them being a huge piece, by telling us what their needs are.”

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times