In its two years of operation, The Saanich Peninsula Youth Health Clinic has provided services for about 277 young people between the ages of 12 and 24. Of that number, 45 patients have been referred for further psychological care and 73 have been seen by the on-site mental health counsellor.
Dr Kate Evans, the clinic’s medical director, says she is passionate about a group she feels is sometimes forgotten.
“Sidney and the Peninsula have a good reputation for caring for seniors, but the youth are a group that has been neglected,” she said.
The clinic offers a wide range of services that cater to physical, mental and sexual health. Mental health is a growing issue and Evans estimates that one-third of all visits are due to mental health inquiries.
The clinic has access to intake workers and there is a rotating cast of doctors who provide health care. Jen Harrison runs a team of youth workers and Janice Henry advises on First Nations’ issues.
Making use of links with other health care services is something the clinic seek to make the most of. The Foundry, a health care group in Victoria, provides an LGBTQ worker who sees patients one-on-one.
While the clinic has become firmly established in the community, funding remains a central concern and the clinic shut down for three months last year when funds dried up.
The team of eight doctors are dedicated and flexible with their schedules, but as they are paid market rates and as the clinic is free, the organization relies on regular funding from charitable donations.
Advice and financial support are given by the Saanich Peninsula Hospital and Healthcare Foundation (SPHHF), who are in regular contact with Dr. Evans and her team.
The community has responded positively too, with many groups raising funds, such as the Rotary Club and a ‘battle of the bands’ event at a local high school. Thrifty Foods also immediately contributed $500 and continue to provide food.
As the clinic becomes more established and visits from patients grow, so does the scope of their remit, with issues such as cyber-mental health (issues relating to the use of the internet) now a growing demand.
Perhaps one of the clinic’s most important ancillary affects is that it is empowering a new generation of students to think about social care. In their spare time, a team of youth volunteers, many from Parkland School, support their peers who attend the clinic.
Evans says that her ambition is to make the organization ‘sustainable’ and to continue to serve young people.
“They are special. They are so empathetic and will drive the country and economy when we’re older. We need to help them.”