FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Laura Honey, a local social worker, was a co-recipient of the Inspiring Social Worker of the Year Award during Social Work Week in March.

Honey, a local counsellor, won the award alongside Kathleen Cashin.

Honey says it’s an honour to be recognized by her colleagues and the people who inspire her daily.

“I think that they should all be up winning this award, not just myself, because, without them, I would not be able to pursue some of the avenues of interest,” she said.

“I’ve been very fortunate in living in Fort St. John, where it’s given me a lot of opportunity to engage with people who have a passion for the helping professions, as well as given me the ability to come into contact with people who can promote programming in this community.”

Honey says the director of specialized services for the Northeast Region of Northern Health, Donna Ward, approved the contract for the Northern Health Stabilization program Honey started with her colleague Julia Hintermeinster.

The Inspiring Social Worker of the Year Award was sponsored by the B.C. Association of Social Workers (BCASW) and the University of B.C.’s School of Social Work.

The award is to recognize B.C. social workers whose compassion and dedication to service have inspired others, according to the BCASW.

Ursula Kerr, master of social work and registered social worker, along with Lindsay Jardine, bachelor of social work and registered social worker, wrote a letter of recommendation for Laura Honey to receive the award.

“She is a tireless advocate for the mental health needs of youth in our community, and she is an inspiring individual and social worker,” the letter states.

Honey previously worked as a child protection worker for B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development and a youth support worker with the John Howard Society, according to Kerr and Jardine.

The letter says, in 2016, Honey moved to Fort St. John and worked as a counsellor for the sexual abuse intervention program at Community Bridge.

During this time, she counselled children and youth under 19 who experienced sexual abuse and provided clinical treatment interventions to children under 12 who presented with sexually intrusive behaviours.

Kerr and Jardine wrote that this experience showcased how well Honey connects with children but also advocates for the needs of her clients “despite working in underfunded programs and resources.”

In March 2017, Honey moved to a private practice, working as a child and youth mental health counsellor, says the letter.

Honey also started an autism support group for youth in 2019 due to difficulty accessing services for neurodivergent youth.

Kerr and Jardine add that Honey noticed the long wait-times children and youth experience while waiting for psychological assessments.

She recognized the need for a permanent child psychiatrist in town, so Honey began a child and youth psychiatry clinic by contracting an out-of-town psychiatrist, Dr. Ainsworth.

To facilitate this, the letter says she created an assessment process that included getting families and youth to speak to Dr. Ainsworth online, completing the necessary paperwork and organizing referrals in order of urgency.

A year ago, Honey and a colleague of hers started Northern Health Stabilization at the local hospital.

The letter says this was created in response to “poor discharge planning for youth, lack of access for emergency youth supports and to meet the social justice needs of youth in our community.”

Kerr and Jardine say this program focuses on the needs of suicidal youth, who are identified as “at-risk” and would be discharged without follow-up efforts.

They say this program provides stabilization support over three months and works with youth being discharged from the Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment Unit in Prince George.

This program runs out of the emergency room of the Fort St. John hospital.

Honey says the program now has a team of six, and they’ve seen over 110 clients come through the emergency department to access their services, both in and outpatient.

“We’ve had a lot of support. It’s been very successful, so we’re looking forward to continuing to grow that program,” she said.

“We feel honoured to work alongside Laura as social workers, and we appreciate the tremendous gift she’s given our community,” said Kerr and Jardine at the end of their letter.

Honey expressed her appreciation and thanks to the community as well.

“I deeply appreciate the community for embracing our programming and for everybody that’s put their time, energy and effort into having it come to fruition,” she said.

“Just a big thanks to all of them.”

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Shailynn Foster

Shailynn Foster is a news reporter for Shailynn has been writing since she was 7 years old, but only recently started her journey as a journalist. Shailynn was born and raised in Fort St. John and she watches way too much YouTube, Netflix and Disney+ during the week while playing DND on the weekends.