Government touts ‘one stop’ model for youth services with new Whitehorse office

The Yukon government has launched a new centre where youth can find help, be it for mental health issues, housing, studies or relationship issues.

The Yukon government has launched a new centre where youth can find help, be it for mental health issues, housing, studies or relationship issues.

The Integrated Supports for Yukon Youth (ISYY) centre opened Tuesday in downtown Whitehorse.

Located at Second Avenue and Lambert Street, the centre is staffed by a manager, a social worker, two family support workers and one administrative support worker.

Walking down Second Avenue it’s hard to miss ISYY — the government has installed a large pink arrow pointing to the building.

ISYY’s hours, Tuesday to Saturday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., were chosen with youth in mind: It’s meant to be an after-hours place where they can go to find the help they need.

It will provide services for youth ages 12 to 24.

“Often youth are not aware of services or can’t access them during school or regular hours,” Health and Social Services Minister Mike Nixon said during the launch.

“Our current system can be complex and difficult to navigate especially if you’re not exactly sure of what you want or where you are going.”

While Nixon billed it as a “one-stop shop” for youth needing help in various areas of life, a lot of services won’t be housed in that building. But the staff working there will know where to direct youth, instead of having them navigate two or three different offices on their own.

That means not having to tell their stories multiple times, Nixon said.

ISYY is a two-year pilot project, part of the broader mental health strategy the government released last May.

The strategy sets out a number of projects to be implemented for the next 10 years to improve the delivery of mental health services.

One of the priorities identified was to “pilot integrated approaches in Whitehorse and rural communities based on high-need groups,” including youth.

There were no additional new costs for the centre as the staff were simply pulled from other health and social services programs, Nixon said.

“It’s about re-allocating and consolidating existing resources to meet a need that until today was unmet.”

A department spokesperson later clarified the staff were pulled from youth justice and family and children services. Because they’ll be doing the same work, but at a different location, there will be little to no impact on services.

The centre will also be able to help youth filling out forms or applications for housing and employment.

Having one place youth know they can get answers and directions is crucial, Education Minister Doug Graham said.

“When I talk to these young people I can see the confusion in their faces especially when it comes to planning their life after high school,” he said.

“It’s our responsibility to make those young people more comfortable when they’re trying to figure things out.”

Both health and social services and education departments worked collaboratively on this project, Graham said.

“Support staff can perform crisis intervention, they can coordinate services for individuals with really complex needs,” he said.

The idea is also to help youth navigate the sometimes headache-inducing government programs.

The office space required a bit of “refresh,” Nixon said at the opening, but not a full renovation.

The idea of a centre like ISYY is nothing new, he noted. It’s been identified as one of the best practices across Canada to deliver social services to youth.

During the two-year pilot phase the department will look at how many youth make use of the service, Graham said.

If it’s a success the model could be replicated in other communities across the Yukon.

For more information, visit hss.gov.yk.ca/isyy.php or call 456-6165.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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