VICTORIA, BC – (October 6, 2022): First piloted in North and West Vancouver in November 2021, with additional investment from the Province of BC, communities in New Westminster and Victoria can expect Peer Assisted Care Teams (PACT) to be a new resource of person-centered trauma-informed crisis support.
“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. “The new peer-assisted care teams in Victoria and New Westminster will support people in distress and connect them to the services they need, while freeing up valuable police resources.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division (CMHA BC) engaged in a community-focused collaborative process to select one community-based organization in New Westminster and another in Victoria to support the pilot stage of the PACT initiative. The process included: community planning table consultations with organizations, municipalities, and individuals with lived and living experience; a formal request for an expression of interest; and a selection committee for both community areas. Organizations were selected based on their expertise, capacity, and community outreach. In addition, funds have been allocated to incorporate an Indigenous-led process or service during the pilot year of 2022-2023, which includes but is not limited to cultural agility training developed and provided by Indigenous Perspectives Society.
AVI Health and Community Services Society (AVI), will be leading the Victoria Peer-Assisted Care Team.
“It was the input from people with lived experience on Victoria’s Community Wellness Task Force and the leadership of Councillor Sarah Potts that helped to make the PACT a reality here in Victoria.” Says Lisa Helps, Mayor of City of Victoria. “We’re very grateful to CMHA BC and the Province for taking this input seriously and working with our communities to establish these teams. They are desperately needed to provide care and attention for our most vulnerable residents when they are in crisis and it terrific to see them rolling out today.”
AVI is a multi-disciplinary organisation providing a range of health and social services to people who are marginalised. With a mission is to promote health, dignity & well-being for all people affected by HIV, HCV, & substance use by delivering sex-positive & harm reduction-based education, prevention & support service across Vancouver Island. AVI has a history of working to address community concerns, in developing strategies and collaboratively delivering community-based responses to mental and substance use crises.
The Purpose Society (Purpose Society), will be leading the New Westminster Peer-Assisted Care Team.
“Mental health continues to be a top-of-mind challenge in our community, especially for our most vulnerable residents. PACT fulfills the need for a mobile response service in New Westminster that can provide compassionate and professional support directly where it’s needed.” said Mayor Jonathan X . Coté.
Purpose Society is a multi-service organization providing services of health, education, childcare, counselling, and skill development to communities in the Lower Mainland for 37 years. Purpose Society has a strong history of delivering service designed for individuals, youth and families, who are subject to personal and/or societal distress, marginalization and alienation. Their Harm Reduction Program, operating for over 5 years, has a provision of a mobile harm reduction vehicle throughout the North Fraser region, operated by a team of Outreach Workers.
AVI and Purpose Society will be joining CMHA North/West Vancouver, as the first PACT service providers in British Columbia, in offering a new response to crisis. Members of the community will have direct access to contact and connect with Peer Assisted Care Teams by phone or text. Teams will assess the situation and deploy a mental health professional with a peer support worker to provide trauma-informed support. Organizations are currently engaged in recruiting, outreach, and will be providing communities with information on how to connect with PACT.
Currently, mental health related crisis response in BC is primarily left to police and hospital emergency departments.
“Police officers are often called upon to respond to mental health related incidents or in some cases no-one is called at all, leaving family and community members confused and alone to deal with a crisis on hand” says Jonathan Morris, CEO at the Canadian Mental Health Association “Members of peer-assisted care teams act as a non-emergency response to crisis, meeting individuals where they are at.”
As complex cases continue to arise in our communities, there is a call for alternative responses to supporting individuals in distress, as identified in the recent A Rapid Investigation into Repeat Offending and Random Stranger Violence in British Columbia and the special committee report on Transforming Policing and Community Safety in British Columbia.
CMHA BC will be working alongside service providers, community partners, and municipalities to pilot, monitor, assess, and strengthen these programs to scale for more communities across BC.
Photo Opportunity & Questions: October 6, 2022 at 2:00pm at Victoria Legislature (outside) CMHA BC and all PACT Service Providers will be joined by Honourable Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance and Honourable Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to acknowledge the progress of this initiative and celebrate the two organizations leading the work in Victoria and New Westminster.
Canadian Mental Health Association of B.C
604 353 8159
“The Purpose Society staff are honoured and excited to be given this opportunity. Staff and peers have worked closely with the City of New Westminster’s first responders in the past to assist with crisis calls. The PACT program takes a different approach to working with individuals or families in crisis and will hopefully positively impact the outlook of mental health crisis calls.”
– Lynda Fletcher-Gordon, Executive Director, Purpose Society
“With over 32 years of community work, we have developed considerable expertise in working with individuals who experience mental health and substance use challenges, especially those who experience barriers accessing services. We look forward to providing this service grounded in relational and trauma informed approaches that uphold the inherent dignity and worth of all those we support.”
– Katrina Jensen, Executive Director, AVI Health and Community Service Society