People in crisis will soon have access to new peer-assisted care teams in New Westminster and Victoria and an expanded care team on the North Shore thanks to a $1.26-million investment through Budget 2022.
The teams – also known as PACTs – are civilian-led and support people in distress by connecting them to mental-health and substance-use supports.
“Crisis situations that are met with community-based care prevent the criminalization of our communities’ most vulnerable people,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “These new peer-assisted care teams will support people in distress and connect them to the services they need, while freeing up valuable police resources.”
Care teams made up of mental-health professionals and peer workers will respond to calls related to feelings of hopelessness or despair, social isolation, loneliness, fear, anxiety, thoughts of self-harm and suicide, substance use, or other mental health challenges. Responses range from crisis counselling and de-escalation to advocating for the person in distress and connecting them to appropriate resources and services. The teams can respond instead of police, but can also work alongside police and other responders depending on the situation.
The funding will also support the expansion of the PACT on the North Shore, which was launched as a pilot by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) North and West Vancouver Branch and its community partners in fall 2021.
“A peer-integrated response is essential,” said Julia Kaisla, executive director, CMHA North and West Vancouver Branch. “Over and over, people with living experience of mental illness and substance use have asked us to stop trying to fix them and just make space to hear them. Our team deploys a peer and a mental-health professional to visit with people in their home. We learn about their journey and start building a meaningful relationship with an individual and their family. As we walk with them, we give them help and hope for a new vision of the future.”
PACTs will become operational in New Westminster and in Victoria this year. On the North Shore, people in distress and their families can access the PACT Thursday to Sunday from 6 p.m. to midnight by calling 1 888 261-7228 or texting 778 839-1831. Service is available in English and Farsi.
The Province’s commitment to enhancing crisis supports is one way government is improving access and quality of care, and it is a key pillar outlined in A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap for creating a seamless, comprehensive system of mental-health and addictions care that works for everyone.
Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education, MLA for New Westminster –
“People in a mental-health or substance-use emergency deserve compassionate and appropriate care. I’m grateful that this new community-based team is coming to New Westminster to offer people in distress and their families urgent help when they need it and connection to ongoing services and supports that are available to them.”
Lisa Helps, mayor, City of Victoria –
“I would like to thank the Province for making this transformational investment in Peer Assisted Care Teams in Victoria. With the creation of these teams and a health-and-wellness approach, we collectively take a huge step forward in the well-being of our entire community. I would also like to recognize Councillor Potts in Victoria and Councillor Nakagawa in New Westminster for their leadership and hard work in helping to bring this important initiative to life.”
Nadine Nakagawa, councillor, City of New Westminster, and chair of the PACT Working Group –
“We need to ensure that we’re providing the right type of resources at the right time for people in crisis. This pilot project is an immense opportunity for us to provide a compassionate response for vulnerable members of our community.”
Mike Little, mayor, District of North Vancouver –
“This funding will help ensure that people in crisis on the North Shore are able to fully access the support and specialized services they need. Expanding the North Shore Peer Assisted Care Team and continuing to pair trained professionals with those in need of these services in a compassionate and responsive way is an extremely important part of supporting the mental-health needs of our community.”
Chief Del Manak, Victoria Police Department –
“The current police-only response model to mental-health crises needs to change. Many individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis prefer to deal with a peer-assisted care team. Having qualified and trained civilians providing outreach, care and support is a model that I fully support.”
- In B.C., one in five interactions with police involve someone with a mental-health disorder.
- CMHA-BC estimates that 44% of all people who rate their mental health as poor in BC would be unwilling to call 911 during a mental-health crisis.
- Studies in Canada and other jurisdictions indicate the majority of people in crisis do not receive health care as a result of police response.
- Oregon, New Zealand, and Sweden have highly successful civilian models that include front-line workers trained in risk management and de-escalation with police support available.
- The CAHOOTS community-based crisis-intervention team in Eugene, Ore. averts approximately $8.5 million in policing costs annually and answers 17% of police calls.
Learn about the North Shore Peer Assisted Care Team: www.northshorepact.com
Learn about A Pathway to Hope: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BCMentalHealthRoadmap_2019.pdf