The afternoon hours were always full of motion at the Foundry Abbotsford Centre – youth, their caregivers and staff all coming and going to access a variety of services.
But when COVID-19 began, the clinic grew strangely quiet as services moved online. Foundry began offering counselling, peer support and primary health care through phone and video calls.
A quieter lobby area at Foundry
“This switch meant greater accessibility for some youth whose anxiety, lack of transportation or not having a supportive caregiver had previously been a barrier,” said Sharon, the Foundry Manager.
“Providing services virtually required some creativity. For example, if baking was the group activity of the day, the youth would get the materials needed delivered to them and then join online,” Sharon added.
While virtual services lowered the barriers for some youth, they quickly realized that they weren’t seeing the same volume of clients as in normal times. Even for the generation most comfortable with technology, it turned out that they wanted and needed in-person services.
“As soon as we opened to in-person service, spots filled up quickly. We did a soft launch in August 2020 with COVID protocols in place, and we’ve been operating in-person at 70-80 percent capacity,” said Laurel, the Service Delivery Coordinator.
Fully equipped clinic
Addressing Complex Issues and Needs
Foundry Staff have noticed that isolation has added to the complexity of some youth’s experiences when it comes to mental health struggles.
Youth seek support for a variety of issues – anxiety, depression, stress, life in general. With COVID, there is also isolation and grief and the uncertainty of Covid added onto what was being experienced by youth accessing Foundry.
“So, the complexity of the issues facing youth coming to us now is much higher. Whether it’s been exacerbated by Covid, or it was the straw that broke the camel’s back we’ll never really know. We’re helping more complex youth – we always have, but not to the numbers that we’ve seen,” Sharon said.
To respond to the complex needs, staff worked to find funding to expand their services. Through short-term grants, Foundry was able to increase counselling and peer support hours to provide added support to the youth and their caregivers.
Another demographic that Foundry is looking to offer more support to is young adults from ages 19 to 24.
“We’ve always have seen a gap in services for young adults in long-term counselling or trauma-type counselling because once you turn 19, there just aren’t enough services within the community to support you. And their mental health is going through a bit of a structural change. So we’re struggling to keep up with their referrals as well,” said Laurel.
Addressing Needs Holistically
Youth often hear about Foundry through a friend, teacher, caregiver. They can access primary health, care, walk-in counselling, peer support and many other services without needing a referral. If they aren’t sure what services would best address their needs, a Navigator walks them through their options and can help connect the dots between Foundry services and the services our 14 partnering programs provide.
Navigators help figure out what the big picture is for the youth beyond a single service to address their needs holistically.
“It’s often not just health needs that youth have, but social service needs too. It’s hard to work on an issue like mental health if they don’t have housing or enough food. There’s an Archway Food Bank satellite location in our building and we offer help obtaining income assistance.” said Sharon.
“We also work directly with our partner organizations to get youth the full range of service they need in a timely manner.”
The Right Door
“Coming to Foundry is always the right door. Even though we may not necessarily have a service that’s going to help you that day, we may be able to connect you with relevant service and do that warm referral for you,” said Laurel.
“If you’re a caregiver and don’t know what to do to help your child, Foundry is the right place for support. We hope they feel that when they come here.
“We’ve all struggled with some form of mental health, and it takes a lot of work to keep our mental wellness balanced. We’re working to reduce the stigma around mental wellness and want everyone to know that you’re not alone.”
Although the mental wellness and health needs of youth are complex, Foundry is here to support them in a holistic and integrated way.