Four Nova Scotia high schools will pilot a new model for youth health centres.
The model will be designed in partnership with students, teachers, administrators, SchoolsPlus staff, youth health centre co-ordinators, and other health and education stakeholders.
“Schools play an important role in promoting health and connecting young people to the help they need,” said Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey. “We want to make it easier for youth to access the services and supports they need – from mental health and addictions, to physical and sexual health – when and where they need it.”
The following schools will participate in the pilot:
— Amherst Regional High School
— Citadel High School
— Glace Bay High School
— Digby Regional High School (new youth health centre)
The pilot project will see stakeholders help develop a consistent approach to youth health across the province. It will focus on youth-friendly access to integrated services and supports that promote wellness and help students stay healthy and do better in school.
“We’re seeing more students each year for everything from stress about an upcoming test, to food insecurity at home,” said Erin Poirier, Nova Scotia Health Authority’s youth health centre co-ordinator at Citadel High School in Halifax. “Being part of this pilot will help us better understand the changing needs of youth at Citadel High and how we can better respond to those needs.”
An expert panel on youth health provided guidance and direction to government on this project.
Panel members are:
— Dr. Stan Kutcher, Sun Life Financial Chair in adolescent mental health (panel chair)
— Dr. Alexa Bagnell, interim chief of child and adolescent psychiatry, IWK Health Centre
— Dr. John LeBlanc, pediatrician, IWK Health Centre
— Jessie-Lee McIsaac, professor and Canada Research Chair in early childhood diversity and transitions, Mount Saint Vincent University
“Youth health centres are already a go-to place for support and services in many schools,” said Dr. Kutcher. “By building on what’s working and making improvements with youth in mind, we will be able to reach young people earlier and more often.”
Youth health centres have been in many Nova Scotia schools for more than 14 years, and are now in 70 junior high and high schools. They offer a range of services, including health education, health promotion, information and referral, follow-up support, and some clinical services. SchoolsPlus, which will expand to all schools by the end of the 2018-19 school year, is often hosted within a youth health centre.
Better integrating youth health services was one of four recommendations put forward by the Minister’s Panel on Innovation in Mental Health and Addictions. Government committed $1 million in the 2018-19 budget to advance this work.
The pilot will begin in January 2019.