At their meeting on May 23, 2023, Colwood Council approved a funding increase for the youth-focused Community Outreach and Prevention Program (COPE) provided by Pacific Centre Family Services Association (PCFSA) here in Colwood.
The City of Colwood has invested in this outreach program for youth provided by Pacific Centre Family Services Association since the early 1980s, understanding that early intervention saves lives and promotes health and wellness in ways that improve quality of life and can result in a reduced need for future services.
Early intervention to reduce risk for youth
The COPE program is an early intervention and prevention program for children and youth aged 5 to 18, who require direct support, or assistance finding other resources within the community to help them address a variety of issues, especially those that may put them at risk of harm or antisocial behaviours. It is a unique service within South Vancouver Island, originating from a community partnership intended to serve youth and community.
Supporting an ever-growing number of youth
The COPE program continues to grow at an exponential rate. It currently serves approximately 325 youth per year, with approximately 40% residing in Colwood. This number represents an increase from a year ago, when the program served approximately 300 youth, and a substantial increase from 2 years ago, where the program served 200 youth and their families. The increase in youth served is directly correlated with the increase in investment from both cities of Colwood and Langford as well as the increasing population.
Increasingly complex issues
Counsellors also observe increased complexity of issues faced by youth, resulting in even greater demand for this comprehensive service. A greater number of referrals are received for youth who have experienced severe anxiety, depression, school avoidance, substance use problems, effects from family violence, suicidality, and antisocial behaviours. In the face of these increasing demands, PCFSA has developed innovative services, partnerships, and independent funding to attend to the growing need.
Reducing wait times for youth and reducing RCMP involvement
In fiscal year 2022-23, the City of Colwood increased funding from $115,000 to $160,000. Together with a proportional increase from the City of Langford this enabled the COPE program to hire an additional full-time counsellor. As a result, wait times were reduced from 6 months to approximately 6-8 weeks. This is despite an approximate 30% increase in referrals.
Reducing the amount of time youth wait for counselling services directly impacts the positive change for youth accessing services.which reduces the occurrence of high-risk activity and the corresponding pressure on the law enforcement and other mental health resources. This funding has also enabled PCFSA to support Westshore RCMP Community Policing by providing a counsellor who rides along with an officer 3 days per week to provide preventative services to high-risk youth, as well as offering crisis support and community resourcing.
The funding increase will see the City of Colwood's contribution increase from $160,000 in 2022, to $184,000 in 2023, $190,000 in 2024, and $195,000 in 2025.
Sandra Russell, Communications Manager
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