Model expanding to five new sites following successful implementation at NorWest
Four years ago, Danni Mesojednik, 24, was lost in adulthood and struggling with their mental health (Mesojednik uses they/them pronouns). They visited NorWest Co-op Community Health seeking counselling and were referred to an Indigenous counsellor at the Youth Hub.
“The [space], catered to youth, felt more welcoming; I didn’t feel nervous going in there,” Mesojednik says. “It felt so weird going into an adult office, so having the youth space was great.”
Youth Hubs are a new model of health care that believe young people and their families should have a voice in their care and finding support should be accessible. The Hubs combine mental health, addiction services, primary care, peer support and more, all in one location; they’re a one-stop-shop for a variety of youth-focused services.
Mesojednik is now on the Hub’s youth advisory board, attends counselling on an as-needed basis, and has referred several friends to seek support and counselling in the last year.
“It felt so good to see my friends make strides in their mental health because of this organization that, five years ago, didn’t exist,” Mesojednik says.
Mental health in the community has been a growing concern for years – even before the pandemic hit. Then, the sudden changes to our lifestyle and the emotional toll of living in uncertainty for the last year-and-a-half impacted many people’s mental health further.
More than half of Canadians say they’re feeling increased stress or anxiety since the pandemic began, according to a report by Ipsos. Youth have suffered similarly, and say one of their biggest challenges has been coping with isolation and loneliness. Youth experiencing marginalization are particularly at risk.
A report done in 2020 by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) found strengthening community partnerships and decreasing barriers for young people to access support, along with expanding community funding to create spaces to increase social connection, could lessen the negative impacts. The Youth Hub model aims to do that by providing low-barrier services for youth and their families.
Nancy Heinrichs, NorWest Co-op’s executive director, says prior to opening their Youth Hub site it was struggling to adequately meet youth’s needs. She heard about “headspace” – the National Youth Mental Health Foundation in Australia – which offered accessible and holistic youth services. After attending an international conference about the model in Europe, she was determined to make it a reality in Winnipeg.
Over the course of a few years, Heinrichs worked with a team of NorWest staff and external experts in youth mental health to develop the first Youth Hub site. It opened at NorWest in 2017, thanks to support from The Winnipeg Foundation. The past five years have demonstrated Youth Hubs improve access to important mental health and addiction services and better integrate these services, in order to offer more holistic care.
In November 2020, the Manitoba government announced that Shared Health, which works to integrate and coordinate patient care across the province, was working with a group of philanthropic partners, including The Winnipeg Foundation, United Way of Winnipeg, Graham Boeckh Foundation, RBC, and others, to scale up the Youth Hub model. Five more sites are set to have a soft opening this fall.
- An Indigenous-led site located at Ka Ni Kanichihk, serving the Centennial and Point Douglas neighbourhoods
- A downtown-based site in West Broadway
- A site located at St. Anne’s and St Mary’s to serve the St. Boniface and St. Vital neighbourhoods, which includes francophone, newcomer, and Indigenous youth
- Sites in Brandon and Selkirk
These new Youth Hub locations are anticipated to improve access to and integration of mental health and addiction services for youth, support early intervention and health promotion to help address issues before they grow into bigger problems, and decrease stigma around mental health and addiction.
“Youth Hubs, where youth can come to one site and receive multiple services, offer the flexible care that youth need and ask for,” says Kendra Monk, NorWest Youth Hub coordinator. “We are so grateful to be joining a network with five other brand-new Youth Hubs in Manitoba, where our province’s youth can be served on a much wider scale.”
While United Way of Winnipeg is leading the project, youth and their families are included as co-creators in the design, implementation, and evaluation of services and systems on an on-going basis.
Recipient: NorWest Co-op Community Health
Program: Youth Hubs
Grant: $1.2 million over three years, drawn from Strategic Initiatives, the Moffat Family Fund, and an anonymous donor
This story is featured in the Fall 2021 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.