The Barsby and Nanaimo District Secondary School Wellness Centres, opened in 2016, are a partnership between Island Health, public health, local pediatricians, First Nations community organizations, multiple community youth mental health and substance use organizations, RCMP, the city of Nanaimo, the Nanaimo Ladysmith School District and the Nanaimo Division of Family Practice.
Doctors and public health nurses provide care alongside school staff and child and youth clinical counsellors, delivering a wide range of services.
“In this model, instead of adolescents having to navigate our complicated system, we’re building services that wrap around them,” says Dr Sheila Findlay, Chair of the Nanaimo Division of Family Practice, Co-director of the centre, and one of eight doctors who provide family practice services there.
Students can walk in or make an appointment to address any issue seen in a regular family practice including injuries, illness, sexual health, and mental health and substance use, with a youth-based model of care. “This is hugely important for these kids. They may have a severely dysfunctional family relationship, be overwhelmed and in psycho-social turmoil,” says Dr Findlay.
The doctor says the on-site services can help to make a young person’s journey easier and, in some cases, even prevent a trip to the emergency room. “There is no question, prevention is really crucial in this age group,” she explains. “If we can see adolescents when they are at the beginning of their challenges and connect them to the right supports, then we can create a cohort of kids who are going to take life in stride in a different way.”