Five local physicians have won a health award for their work with the Ridge Meadows Youth Wellness Centre.
Doctors Matt Chow, Len Hatlelid, Ursula Luitingh, Melodie Prem-Smith, and Elizabeth Zubek – all members of the Ridge Meadows Division of Family Practice – will be honored at the Doctors of B.C. annual general meeting on June 3 with the Excellence in Health Promotion Award.
“We could not be more proud of these physicians, who have put their heart and soul into improving patient care for children, youth, and families needing mental health and substance use services and struggling to access them,” said Treena Innes, executive director, Ridge Meadows Division of Family Practice.
“These physicians stepped up and played a critical leadership role in supporting our community, which was starting to feel helpless watching these at-risk youth slip through the cracks.”
The physicians work with other team members at Ridge Meadows Youth Wellness Centre to provide mental health support for children and youth ages eight to 24 who are experiencing mild to moderate mental health and substance use issues.
The centre provides a drop-in service on Thursday evenings, 4-6 p.m., enabling children and youth to access:
• a family doctor, with whom they can discuss their mental health;
• referral to a youth psychiatrist;
• referral to a youth advocate, who can connect them with mental health and substance use programs and services in the community (including free or affordable counselling, youth and parent peer support groups, and a variety of therapies);
• services from options for sexual health, an organization that offers a drop-in time at the same time and location as the youth wellness centre.
Child and youth psychiatric services at the centre are provided by youth psychiatrist Dr. Chow, and general mental health support is provided by doctors Luitingh, Zubek, Prem-Smith, and Hatlelid, who are all family physicians in the community.
“I am very excited to work in this area and feel humbled by the commitment that all the members bring to the team,” said Luitingh. “It is a great relief to feel that the community is rallying around these young patients. The Youth Advocates in particular are so brave to approach these difficult issues, and have been instrumental in informing our decision-making process.”
The Excellence in Health Promotion Award honours doctors for their work in ensuring children, youth, and their families:
• have increased access to mental health and substance use supports and services in a safe, child- and youth-focused environment;
• feel as though care is wrapped around them;
• always have a direct connection to the care team and never feel as though they need to navigate a confusing mental health system on their own, especially while in crisis.
The clinic’s team-based care model provides child and youth psychiatry in a setting that is 400 per cent more efficient than in a traditional setting, enabling clinic staff to see more patients and provide better quality care. In a seven-month period between May and November 2016, the clinic saw 17 new child and youth psychiatric patients per month (on a one-day-per-week basis). Also, 65 per cent of youth seen at the clinic were referred to the youth advocate for support in accessing programs and services in the community, and less than five per cent of youth seen at the clinic needed to be referred to the hospital.
The Ridge Meadows Division of Family Practice is part of the Divisions of Family Practice initiative, funded by a joint committee of the Government of B.C. and Doctors of B.C.