New services available to children

NANAIMO: The Vancouver Island Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect program held its grand opening last week.

Child psychologist Dr. Laura Mills

Child psychologist Dr. Laura Mills

They have been providing support services for abused children for the past six months, but with renovations now complete at their Bowen Road office, the Vancouver Island Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect program held its grand opening earlier this week.

Located at 39-1925 Bowen Road, VI SCAN provides non-urgent health evaluation and assessment for children or youth who may have been maltreated, training for professionals, as well as providing guidance and support in collecting and documenting forensic child maltreatment evidence for use in court.

Since opening in April, the program has received more than 90 referrals.

“This is a service that is vital, it’s important, and we missed it when we didn’t have it available,” said Doug Hillian, director of practice for the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s Vancouver Island region. “It meant that we had to take kids to [B.C. Children’s Hospital] in Vancouver. That involved increased inconvenience and possibly added to trauma for them in some cases.”

Having the program here in Nanaimo is a huge advantage with its central location, as families are referred from across Vancouver Island and will have less to travel for help, Hillian said.

The VI SCAN program is administered by the Vancouver Island Health Authority, under an annual contract with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. It formerly ran as the Health Assessment and Resources for Children program in Victoria until 2009, when it was suspended due to a lack of pediatricians available to take the job on.

That’s where pediatrician Dr. Wilma Arruda comes in. Hired in 2011, she now leads the four-person team which also includes a nurse, social worker and administrative assistant.

“We basically had to start from scratch to develop the program,” she said. “We had to locate and renovate a space. We even changed the name.”

Funds for the renovation, which includes interview, assessment and medical examination rooms, were provided by the Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation to the tune of $210,000. An additional $38,000 has been provided for the team to travel across the Island to raise awareness about the program.

“The hospital foundation is pleased that we could offer support to VI SCAN and, in turn, help provide a safe haven for the most vulnerable members of our society,” said foundation chairwoman Christine McAuley, in a press release.

Sharing the facility with VI SCAN is the Central Island Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Program, a team headed by child and youth psychiatrist Dr. Rex Bowering. That program is a unique, interdisciplinary mental health service for children, youth and their families. It supports children and youth who are experiencing serious, complex psychiatric challenges.