Youth in a wide area that goes from Pemberton and Area C to the Lower Lakes and N'Quatqua now have resources at their fingertips in a new web-based wellness app called Plan-Y.
Plan-Y — in which the initials stand for each area, plus the "Y" for youth — covers the entire area and its young population, which is able to quickly access emergency services, background info, recommendations and even games when they are bored thanks to an initiative that got its start on the North Shore of the Lower Mainland.
Nancy Lee, project coordinator, Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative with the Pemberton Local Action Team, said they took a cue from NorthShoreYouth.ca, which features a calendar of events, as well as health and wellness service listings, volunteering opportunities and jobs.
"I have to admit we stole the idea — with permission — from the NorthShoreYouth.ca," she said. "We really wanted something specific to our region. We're such a different community from Whistler and Squamish."
Lee said the collaborative between stakeholders kicked off in 2013 in an effort to bridge the gaps within the system and featured key representatives from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, law enforcement, First Nations counsellors, educators, community services, social workers and Vancouver Coastal Health, among others, with an eye to making sure that youth receive timely services and support.
Lee explained that as options were explored — with the awareness that printed pamphlets are practically out of date as soon as they're available — pointed to web-based information that is faster and more practical for youths and teens.
"We surveyed 92 youth in our area between Grades 7 and 9 and asked them where they get information — they largely go online, that's No. 1. They don't pick up a pamphlet, especially if it's going to be visible," she said. And with that in mind, the app was designed to have a feature that can quickly mask what someone is searching for — to avoid embarrassment if they are searching.
"The screen just goes to the wellness almanac Instagram page — what they were searching for is still active in the background but this is if you don't want people to see that you're looking at the LGBTQ stats or whatever," she said.
The app can filter resources by areas, can collate personalized lists, and even has options titled "Learning cool stuff" and "I'm bored" to pass some time.
"The key thing about this directory is we're providing very basic information but then, with each listing, there is a link to Facebook or a website or a phone number — it's just a directory and also our maintenance isn't as much. If a website is updated, then the link is current," she said, adding that the target audience is Grade 7 students and older.
"It's pretty cool," said Lee. "If you need to talk to someone right away, they're there."
Check out the site at Plan-y.ca.