VICTORIA – Infants will soon have a better chance of being born free of alcohol and drug related health challenges, and life-long health and social issues, with the opening of a new drop-in centre close to downtown Victoria for pregnant women with substance use and social issues.
Spearheaded by the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA), and generously funded by the Queen Alexandra Foundation for Children (QAF), the two parties recently signed an agreement to establish HerWay Home – a child-focused, women-centred and family oriented clinic that will initially offer a wide range of health and social services, with the eventual expansion into housing services. Under the agreement QAF will provide a grant of $3.3 million over five years, with VIHA as the operator in partnership with the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD).
“HerWay Home will be a ‘one-stop’ service that will support pregnant women and new mothers with problematic substance use,” said Chuck Chandler, QAF Board Chair. “The Foundation – through our generous donors – is committed to the health and well-being of children in our communities and HerWay Home aligns completely with this work.”
“Any additional service that will encourage positive parenting experiences and healthier outcomes for children is welcome on the island,” said Mary McNeil, Minister of Children and Family Development. “HerWay Home will strengthen our system of support available to vulnerable families in Greater Victoria.”
Every year at Victoria General Hospital, over 200 babies are born who have been exposed to harmful substances during their mothers’ pregnancies. A number of these infants have special needs, including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and many of these babies are removed from their mothers and placed in foster care. Their mothers are often coping with overwhelming challenges, including unsafe housing, inadequate nutrition, physical/emotional/sexual abuse, poverty, isolation and/or substance use – a situation that limits their ability to access health and social services.
“HerWay Home is truly a community partnership that will enhance access to services and improve health and social outcomes for these struggling families,” said Catherine Mackay, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer with VIHA.
Four years of planning went into the development of HerWay Home by a dedicated collaborative of 30 government and community agencies, advocates and experts. The model of care used to develop Victoria’s HerWay Home clinic is based on successful programs like SheWay in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, and the Maxine Wright Centre in Surrey.
“HerWay Home is based on a proven model of effective care,” said Dr. Lenora Marcellus, Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of Victoria and HerWay Home Advisory Committee member. “Studies show that women who participate in these non-judgmental, wrap around programs are able to focus on their own health and the well-being of their baby, and have a greater chance of successful transitioning to healthy parenting.”
HerWay Home is targeted to be up and running by late summer, early fall of this year. Next steps for the project will include the recruitment of a program coordinator and the confirmation of an appropriate clinic site close to downtown Victoria.
QAF President and CEO
Dr. Lenora Marcellus
Young Parent Outreach is a dynamic resource program providing services and support to young pregnant women, young moms and dads, and their children in the Greater Victoria area.
These services – provided by The Cridge Centre for the Family – are designed to give young pregnant women and young moms and dads the help and support network they need to have healthy babies and to be effective, successful parents. Whether it’s housing, income assistance, food back or dealing with child custody or substance abuse, The Cridge Young Parent Outreach program can help.