Surrey Memorial Hospital emergency department entrance. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Surrey Memorial Hospital emergency department entrance. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Youth counselling services expand to Surrey Memorial and other hospitals with $1.35M grant

Dan’s Legacy Foundation to provide free mental health, substance-use outreach

With help from a $1.35-million grant from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, Dan’s Legacy Foundation is expanding its free mental health and substance-use outreach program to Surrey Memorial Hospital.

The grant, according to a release from the ministry, will allow Dan’s Legacy to double its counselling and outreach team to 10 therapists, two social workers and two youth outreach workers. The program is also expanding to Royal Columbia, Burnaby General and BC Children’s hospitals.

“There is a very short window of opportunity when a youth in crisis is asking for help,” said Barbara Coates, executive director, Dan’s Legacy.

“In the past two years, our pilot program has shown that when we can get in front of a youth immediately and connect them to our counselling program and wraparound support, the successful outcomes for young people in terms of increased stability and positive mental health doubles. We’re grateful for the support of the ministry and pleased to see the government putting more resources toward harm prevention.”

The release states that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the foundation’s counsellors have seen “a substantial increase in hospitalizations for anxiety, psychosis, overdose and suicide attempts among their youth clients.” It has also fielded 50 per cent more referrals from other agencies to its trauma-informed counselling and wraparound programs.

“The emergency counselling services that Dan’s Legacy provides are vital to youth at one of their greatest times of need, and I’m grateful to the foundation for enhancing this service to support more British Columbians during the pandemic, and after,” noted Sheila Malcolmson, the minister of mental health and addictions.

The foundation’s counselling services are available for people aged 15 to 25, who have “experienced trauma and mental health or substance challenges, and their families.

“These issues can manifest as depression, anxiety, sleep and eating disorders, self-harming behaviours or through self-medication with alcohol and other drugs.”

If you, or someone you know, needs help, contact program director Tom Littlewood at or 604-999-9136.

The release adds that since 2018, the ministry had provided Dan’s Legacy with just over $2 million and in the past four years, the foundation has helped more than 900 youth meet their educational, employments and recovery goals.

Dan’s Legacy, according to the foundation’s website, was founded in memory of “a young man who, after surviving sexual abuse as a teenager, self-medicated with hard drugs in an attempt to numb the psychological pain of the traumatic experience.”

“He received help from substance abuse recovery programs on two occasions, but did not have access to essential one-to-one therapy. Tragically, Dan relapsed, overdosed and died. He was 19.”

In 2006, the foundation became a registered charity and for the first seven years it operated as a family foundation, raising funds to distribute to other non-profit organizations providing recovery and training programs for at-risk youth. In 2014, the foundation’s board decided to provide its own program.

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