B.C. report details fractured and under-resourced services for First Nations youth

"The Representative for Children and Youth has identified a lack of timely access to mental health services, a lack of proper assessment, miscommunication and a lack of coordination between services providers. These are all problems that are within the government’s ability to remedy if they have the will to act.” — Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President

Vancouver (12 Sept. 2016) — A report released on September 8 by the Representative for Children and Youth (RCY), Marie Ellen Turpel-Lafond, has cast a spotlight on the under-resourced and fractured services for aboriginal children and youth in British Columbia. The report, A Tragedy in Waiting: How B.C.’s mental health system failed one First Nations youth, investigates the life and final months of an aboriginal youth who ultimately took his own life in 2013 at age 16.

New report reveals specific failures in care for young Aboriginal youth 

“The Representative for Children and Youth has identified many troubling problems with mental health services provided to First Nations youth that contributed to this young man’s death. She has identified a lack of timely access to mental health services, a lack of proper assessment, miscommunication and a lack of coordination between services providers,” says Stephanie Smith, President of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE). “These are all problems that are within the government’s ability to remedy if they have the will to act.”

“Our front-line members are all too familiar with the problems identified in the RCY’s report,” says Doug Kinna, BCGEU Vice-President, Social, Information and Health. “Under-resourced and fractured services chronically fail to provide assistance to at-risk First Nations children, youth and their families. The Representative provides concrete recommendations that would go a long way toward fixing the problems. I know our members are hopeful government will act quickly and implement the recommendations she has made.”

Recommendations call for increased resources for mental health services 

The Representative has recommended the Ministry of Children and Family Development develop and provide the resources for mental health services for Aboriginal children and youth to reduce wait times. She also calls on the Ministry of Education to develop a plan to protect the rights and support Aboriginal youth with mental health problems in the public school system. Finally, she recommends the ministry develop a strategy to support delegated Aboriginal Agencies that are failing to meet performance standards, and develop a clearly articulated plan to ensure child safety before the provincial government explores devolving child welfare services to individual First Nations.

Last October, the BCGEU/NUPGE released a report describing B.C.’s Aboriginal child welfare system as complex, culturally unsuitable, under-resourced, severely under-staffed, and struggling under its own complexity. The report also provided recommendations that would begin to address many of the problems in the system. Click here to download the BCGEU report Closing the Circle.

More information: 

 A Tragedy in Waiting: How B.C.’s mental health system failed one First Nations youth

BCGEU report: Closing the Circle: A case for investing in Aboriginal child, youth and family services in B.C.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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