02/04/2015 04:30 EST | Updated 04/06/2015 05:59 EDT

Wait times cut for youth needing mental health, substance abuse help, says B.C. government

The B.C. government is expanding a trial program that's given children and youth quicker access to help for mental health and substance abuse problems, says B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux.

Cadieux says 29,000 children in B.C. are receiving mental health services, which is double the number in 2003.

"It is disturbing. It is a nasty trend that society has to wrestle with," said Cadieux.

"There are not clear indications of why this is the case, but what we know is these children truly need help."

Cadieux and B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake announced changes Wednesday that they said will get those kids help faster, by a new intake process and an online map showing where services are available.

The new process was tested last year on a trial basis at 20 offices around the province, according to a government news release.

Families were able to meet with a clinician directly and find out quickly — often the same day — whether they were eligible for services.

The same process used to take 12 weeks, said Cadieux.

Those changes will be rolled out to all 52 offices around B.C. in April 2015, said the government.

The new intake process and online map were created in response to the 2013 report "Still Waiting: First-hand Experiences with Youth Mental Health Services in B.C." by B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.