When she returned to her hometown four years ago, after 20 years away, to become executive director of the Vernon Branch of Canadian Mental Health Association, Julie Payson was given a challenge.
Board chairperson Richard Finn wanted Payson to make Vernon one of the best places in Canada for support services for its young people.
Payson, CMHA staff and the province took a big step toward that goal Thursday, July 20, when it was announced that young people in Vernon and the North Okanagan will have access to much-needed integrated health and wellness services, including mental health and addiction supports, at a new Foundry centre.
“OK, great, that’s cool, I get it, no pressure, I’m on it,” deadpanned Payson as she shared the story with about 30 invited guests and media at Thursday’s announcement.
Foundry Vernon will offer young people ages 12-24 and their families safe, welcoming and youth-designed health and wellness services, including mental-health and addiction support, drop-in counselling, physical and sexual health care, youth and family peer support and social services.
The announcement was held at the building that will house Foundry Vernon, a former thrift store at 3102-29th Ave., in Vernon’s downtown core, purchased by CMHA Vernon with a substantial donation from the Foord Family Foundation of Vernon.
“Today is a celebration of that vision and hard work done by so many to get us here today,” said Payson. “Mental health starts with community, and the vision for Foundry Vernon is based on young people, families, service providers and advocates all coming together to envision how we can best support youth across the North Okanagan.
“As we build and launch Foundry Vernon, our community will continue to support young people and their loved ones, to make sure this is an inclusive and safe space, and that youth are met where they are at.”
Vernon Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu served as emcee for the announcement, bringing up first her colleague, mental health and addictions minister Jennifer Whiteside.
“Every young person in British Columbia deserves health-care services that meet their unique needs, including access to primary care and mental-health support, no matter where they live,” said Whiteside. “A new Foundry Centre in Vernon will be a beacon for young people providing a safe and judgment-free space to find mental-health, wellness and addiction supports close to home.”
Children and youth have faced unprecedented challenges over the past few years, explained the minister, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, toxic-drug crisis and climate-related emergencies. That’s why the province is investing $74.9 million through Budget 2023 to open 12 more Foundry centres in B.C., for a total of 35 centres throughout the province.
Vernon and Powell River are the first two communities that have been selected for a new centre.er 2023.
Foundry Vernon will be operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association Vernon and District Branch. Bailey Millan-Brule is a Vernon youth adviser on the Youth Advisory Committee of Foundry Vernon. Her group is thrilled the community has a new resource for youth and their families.
“These services, transforming healthcare, counselling resources, on-site physicians, will most certainly save and change lives here,” she said. “There aren’t many easy-to-access resources in our local high schools and college, and people often find it hard to know where to go. For myself personally, and a lot of my friends, a lot of people I know here, getting mental health support has been such a long, lengthy process.
“Wait lists are incredible long. It will definitely be helpful to have a one-stop shop here.”