Nyachol Solomon speaks Tuesday at the opening of Foundry Abbotsford, where she is a peer support worker. (Below) Jenni Johnson and Solomon share a word following speeches by each. tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Foundry Abbotsford opens its doors to youth in need

Site hopes to offer one-stop services for stigma-free mental health and addictions help

Jenni Johnson and Nyachol Solomon needed help as they grew up. They didn’t get it. Or, at least, they didn’t get nearly enough of it from the province’s social system.

Johnson, who struggled with mental illness, felt “hopeless.” She said there were far too many barriers that stood between her and the help she needed

Solomon, meanwhile, aged out of the foster system with little but the clothes on her back.

“I was always alone and always in the wrong place,” she said. “As a youth, I didn’t get help, like going to the doctors, going to the dentists or seeking more support.”

On Tuesday, Johnson and Solomon stood in front of dozens of people and spoke about a facility that hopes to provide resources the pair didn’t have access to. They talked both about their past, and about their hopes for Foundry, which brings together a range of youth services under one roof, with the aim of being a one-stop shop for young people dealing with mental health, substance use and other illness issues..

“I’m excited for Foundry because you’re always in the right place,” Solomon said. “If there was a Foundry when I was a youth I would have got more help.”

Solomon and Johnson are both now peer support workers at Foundry, which involves 16 different organizations, and is operated by Abbotsford Community Services.

Service providers include Fraser Health, the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and other partners. Fraser Health’s Adolescent Day Program, which had operated out of Abbotsford Regional Hospital, now has rooms upstairs, while throughout the large space more than a dozen “listening rooms,” provide areas for counselling and other person-to-person supports.

More than just bringing existing services under one room, the aim is to provide a single stigma-free place where youth aged 12 to 24 can seek out help without encountering the barriers that have deterred some in the past from getting the help they need.

“All we’re trying to do is create a place where young people can come and ask for help, or if they need to, can just walk in and figure out what they want after they’ve spent half an hour there,” Dr. Steve Mathias, who has led the project, said Tuesday. “That space has not existed in this province before”

The Abbotsford location – which was first announced last April by the BC Liberal government – has been in operation since May at its site on Simon Avenue, in Central Abbotsford. It is the seventh of 11 such facilities set to open around British Columbia.

Mathias said its a good start, but that he would like to eventually see 30 such facilities in the province.

For more information go to foundrybc.ca/abbotsford.

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