NANAIMO — Significant funding was announced to enhance children's health outcomes on Vancouver Island, with some of the money allowing several Nanaimo programs to continue serving the community.
Children's Health Foundation of Vancouver Island chief executive officer Veronica Carroll announced a record $4.7 million investment Wednesday in Nanaimo to boost their Island Kids First Fund. She said the money will strengthen 80 initiatives in three key areas on the island and surrounding Gulf Islands.
“Early intervention zero-to-six, children's mental health and rural and remote communities. These are priority areas that have been identified by our community partners and that's where we're putting those dollars to use,” Carroll said.
Island Health data presented prior to the funding announcement showed a disturbing trend of rising mental health and substance use among Vancouver Island youth. The data pointed to increases of 26 and 50 per cent respectively in reported cases of psychiatric issues and substance use involving youth from 2012 to 2016.
Locally, $50,000 was committed for each of the next three years to allow the Greater Nanaimo Early Years Partnership to host Healthy Start Fairs.
The organization's Amber Bruner said their fairs are extremely well received by parents and young children, where 30 to 50 local service providers are on hand.
“It's like a one-stop shop for families to come and connect with all of the resources and services that are provided in Nanaimo,” Bruner told NanaimoNewsNOW.
Bruner said six Healthy Start Fairs geared toward children six and under will happen in different locations around Nanaimo this year — the next one takes place Wednesday, May 2 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at McGrir Elementary.
The renowned Child Development Centre (CDC) received $50,000 for each of the next two years to fund the organzation's family resource navigator position.
The job is held by Kimberlee Howland, who told NanaimoNewsNOW her mandate is to help families maneuver their way around the health and education systems to find the right community support program for their child.
“That's a big piece for parents, when you don't understand the complexities of those two systems it can become extremely overwhelming," Howland said.
Howland added the CDC's family resource navigator role also oversees peer support groups, as well as knowledge sessions to help parents better support their kids.
An estimated 800 children are aided by 1,800 services provided annually by the CDC.
The Canadian Mental Health Association Mid-island also received $20,000 to deliver Living Life to the Full for Youth sessions in school district 68. The sessions teach students how to deal with their feelings when fed up, worried, or hopeless and learn skills that help them tackle life’s problems.
On Twitter: @reporterholmes
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