Where do youth in Edmonton that face significant mental health concerns turn for support when acute health services can not provide a long-term resolution?  This is the question tackled by Alberta Health Services and Boyle Street Community Services three years ago, after a call-to-action from Alberta Families, to break the reliance on emergency services, and to address the lack of community safety nets available to youth struggling with mental health.

To address this, AHS partnered with Boyle Street Community Services, forming a team of health clinicians and community outreach workers, to develop a unique program now known as the Youth Community Support Program (YCSP).


The YCSP mission?

Provide an empowering, collaborative, and community-based program centred around youth and their families who have frequently accessed mental and physical health services without experiencing functional improvement.


Quite simply YCSP is a referral program that provides community-based services to the most medically vulnerable youth all of whom have engaged in self-harm repeatedly. Filling that void however, was no easy task. They were required to design a program unprecedented in Alberta.


“We were trying to come up with a model that had never been done before”

 said Rebecca Taylor, manager of YCSP’s outreach team, on the program’s development in early 2015.


Healthy and supportive relationships are essential for mental and physical wellness which is why encouraging and promoting relationships play a very important role at YCSP.  YCSP works not only with youth, but closely with their family members to establish and develop healthy relationships. These teams – referred to as Care Teams within YCSP – comprise of a family counsellor, occupational therapist, psychologist, and a psychiatrist provided by Alberta Health Services, and Boyle Street youth and family outreach workers. Youth and families identify and establish specific goals which are achieved with the help of their care team. Everyone involved is committed to realizing those unique goals.

Although every youth’s path to wellness is different, they all share a common goal at YCSP – to thrive in supportive communities. However, YCSP does not want to be their community, YCSP is there to provide the support and resources for youth to feel safe, included, empowered, and supported in their existing communities.

  • Positive identity development
  • goal setting
  • family counselling
  • youth outreach
  • psychosocial therapy
  • team building activities
  • relationship building
  • community inclusivity

are just a few of the resources provided to youth and families throughout the program.

Unlike some other programs, there is no time limit at YCSP. Participants receive ongoing care and support until they can safely and comfortably transition out of the program. When YCSP was originally developed, it was estimated a typical participant would need 3 to 9 months to graduate from the program however, the average time in a successful program is about 12 to 18 months.

Not only are they supporting youth, they are supporting everyone involved within the program. Parents, who are often under significant distress, are offered self-care wellness and parent peer support. Additionally, due to the traditionally high ‘burn-out’ rate of front-line staff in this field, YCSP staff encourage a strong focus on wellness in order to help cope with the highly emotional demands of their work. YCSP has encountered very little turnover since it’s inauguration.

“Everyone wants to be here” said Taylor,

“I can’t imagine any more rewarding work.”


Since it’s commencement in January of 2015, YCSP has been a success story.

Through support provided to youth, parents, and education providers, they have witnessed high school students struggling with mental health return to school safely, with their mental health needs addressed, and thrive in the classroom.

They have witnessed youth obtain jobs and live safely on their own, entirely independently.

Many participants are now active members of supportive communities and are working on healthy relationships with their family and peers.


YCSP is Provincial initiative with a sister site operating in Calgary with similar results.


If you are interested in learning more about YCSP and the positive impact that the program is having on their clients we invite you to our next Boyle Street Ambassador Impact Session on YCSP on June, 19th from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm.

Impact sessions give Edmontonians an opportunity to learn more about one of our programs by speaking directlty to those that deliver the service on a daily basis. For more information on YCSP please visit www.BoyleStreet.org/YCSP