Central Okanagan, meet Foundry Kelowna’s new low-barrier mobile wellness unit.
The project, dubbed Wellness on Wheels, has been in the works for about three years, Foundry Kelowna’s centre manager Ben Macauley said.
“It started out with the concept of how do we get young people who are having difficulties accessing service on location here, how do we get them connected and remove one of the barriers to accessing service, which in a lot of cases is transportation,” he said.
Enter Wellness on Wheels, which will offer drop-in counselling and navigation support, as well as primary care services. The mobile unit will be parked on certain days and times at Foundry Kelowna’s partner sites in West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation and Lake Country starting in mid-June. Foundry Kelowna will add more services by late August 2021.
Macauley said the goal is to reach young people who live far away from youth mental health services, meeting them where they’re at instead of making youth come to them.
“The fringes of our community geographically have a difficult time with transportation, whether they have to take time off school or have their parents take time off work in order to get them here,” he said.
“We’re hoping that by listening to the community… we can bring the service to them and cut down on wait times and accessibility issues.”
B.C.’s Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson said innovative services like Wellness on Wheels are important in serving the region’s youth.
“It is innovative and low-barrier services like Foundry’s new Kelowna Wellness on Wheels project that will make life-saving supports more easily accessible for young people in Central Okanagan,” she said.
Foundry Kelowna peer support worker and youth advisory committee lead Anansha Gounder said the project is exciting as youth were directly involved in its creation. Working with over 100 youth from across Central Okanagan, she said young people had their voices heard in making the project a reality.
“Our main priority has always been to ensure that we’re a safe space for everyone to feel open to come to and be open and honest about their needs. We (young people) want to feel comfortable to come back and continue getting services and not feel shame.
“Our hope is that (this project) makes them feel more comfortable to actually reach out, whether that be at our centre or at the mobile unit.”
Youth aged 12 to 24 will be able to access services from the mobile unit starting in mid-June.
For more information on Foundry Kelowna and the services they offer, visit their website.