The province is spending $16.2 million to expand peer support services for youth at Foundry centres across B.C.
The money will go to train and employ 76 new full-time peer support workers at the provincial centres, which offer services including mental health and substance abuse support to young people 12 to 24 years old.
Currently there are about 20 part-time peer support workers at Foundry centres across B.C.
Sheila Malcolmson, minister of social development and poverty reduction, and Jennifer Whiteside, minister of mental health and addictions, made the funding announcement Monday morning at the Foundry North Shore centre in North Vancouver.
Peer support pairs those who have experienced challenges with others going through similar situations to provide support and encouragement.
“It really reduces the stigma” of seeking help, said Whiteside.
Amanda Horne, youth peer support worker at Foundry Vancouver-Granville, said her own youth peer supporter was a big part of her own mental health journey.
When she meets with youth at Foundry, “I share my experiences as a former client,” she said.
Peer support can be a stepping stone to putting youth in touch with other services, said Horne.
“The earlier we provide support, the better the outcome,” said Whiteside.
The peer support program is also intended to help the support workers by providing them with a first job that could potentially lead into work in health care or the helping professions, according to the province.
Money for the grant – which will be provided over three years – comes from the 2022-23 Canada British Columbia Labour Market Development Agreement.