By Breanne Massey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After vying against roughly 40 competitors to be one of eight new Foundry centres in the province, the Ktunaxa-Kinbasket Child and Family Service Society (KKCFSS) has recently been awarded as the lead agency for the Foundry East Kootenay centre for youth in the region.

The application process began in October 2019 with a two-step evaluation process that included a call for expressions of interest, several independent panel interviews, a two-day in-person convening sessions, second written submissions and phone interviews from interested community organizations.

“We’re just elated,” said Colin Sinclair, KKCFSS chief administrative officer. “We put a lot of time and effort into this and to be rewarded for this. We were one of 40 communities vying for the spot, so it was a day of elation. We know how many youths we’re going to help. Even if we change just one youth’s life, it’s worth it. There’s going to be virtual services available for access through the Foundry site.”

The new Foundry centres located in B.C. will offer youth and their families fast access to mental health and substance use services with continuous improvement for ongoing support initiatives throughout the province. Eight new Foundry centres will be awarded to community-based lead agencies in Burns Lake, Comox Valley, Cranbrook, Langley, Squamish, Surrey, Port Hardy and Williams Lake.

“We were lucky, we were one of eight new foundry centres coming across the board to join the nine that are in existence,” Sinclair, adding the East Kootenay Foundation for Health (EKFH) has been working in collaboration for the first time with his team on this initiative.

Each Foundry centre will offer primary care, youth and family peer support, walk-in counselling, mental health services, substance abuse services and social services under one roof for all nations. The goal is to provide easily accessible programming for youth between the ages of 12 and 24 in rural and urban communities without the burden of waitlists.

“You can walk in without an appointment and get the help and services you need,” said Sinclair. “We can help line you up with any services that you need. It’s a very different model than what’s out there right now.”

Through the partnership between KKCFSS and EKFH, the Not Alone campaign has recently been launched in hopes of raising $1.4 million for the Foundry centre campaign in the East Kootenay in 18-months total.

“Please be sure to let people know that all donations received or pledged by January 15th will be matched up to $100,000,” said Brenna Baker, EKFH executive director.

Currently, the EKFH and KKCFSS have received donations from private donors in the Columbia Valley as well as $10,000 from the Invermere Health Care Auxiliary; $5,000 from the Windermere Lions Club; and $1,000 from the Fairmont Lions Club for the Not Alone campaign.

Sinclair and Baker remain optimistic that fundraising could be completed early with the vision that the doors may open sooner than expected.

“The centre will be located in Cranbrook but it’s open to all youth in the East Kootenay region, so it’s pretty great,” said Baker, noting that some youth have been conducting third-party fundraisers by walking, singing or running in support of the Not Alone campaign.

“I am so excited that young people in eight more communities in rural and urban B.C. will be able to get quick access to the mental health and substance use services they need and deserve,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “With COVID-19 impacting the mental health of young people in a big way, and with the overdose crisis continuing, it’s more important than ever that they have quick access to the excellent supports that Foundry provides.”

The next step of the Foundry centre project is to engage youth from the region to request input about how they want to see the location designed.

For youth interested in participating in the consultation process, please contact [email protected] or [email protected].