VANCOUVER, BC – (July 7, 2023): People experiencing a mental-health or substance-use crisis in Prince George, Kamloops and the Comox Valley will soon have access to a new community-led crisis response team.
The team will be made up of peers with lived experience and mental-health professionals who will serve people aged 13 and above in Prince George, Kamloops, and the Comox Valley.
The Province, with the support of the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division (CMHA BC), is bringing new Peer Assisted Care Teams (PACT) to Prince George, Kamloops and the Comox Valley. These teams will support people in crisis by meeting them where they are, providing person-centred care and connecting them to follow-up supports.
“When people are in crisis because of mental-health challenges, we want them met with care and compassion,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “That’s why we are expanding crisis response teams to communities throughout B.C. These new teams will ensure that at their most vulnerable time, people in distress are met with a mental health response that connects them to the services and supports they need on their pathway to well-being.”
In 2022, the Province committed $10 million for new and existing PACTs. These are mobile community-led crisis teams that are trained to de-escalate mental-health crisis situations and provide trauma informed, culturally safe support. PACTs help free police time to focus on crime and divert people from hospital emergency rooms and the criminal justice system, while helping them access services in their communities.
Between January to May 2023, the existing PACTs on Vancouver’s North Shore, New Westminster and Victoria provided supports to people through more than 700 calls, with minimal police interaction.
“We are hearing from the existing PACT communities that these teams have been a missing option for people in crisis. People and their loved ones have reported being relieved that they have an alternative to police to call in times of crisis,” said Jonny Morris, CEO, CMHA BC Division. “We know the impact is felt with every call and PACT’s community-led approach to service has resulted in people being heard and connected, helping to ultimately transform how we approach situations of distress.”
The three new teams announced are in addition to three existing PACTs. CMHA BC is leading a community activation process in Prince George, Kamloops and the Comox Valley this summer, and existing service providers will have the opportunity to apply to operate a PACT. Operators will be selected this fall, and teams could launch shortly after that.
The Province is in the process of selecting the remaining four communities for a total of 10 PACTs. Work is also underway to develop Indigenous-led crisis response teams.
Enhancing supports for people living with mental-health and addiction challenges is an integral part of A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap for building a comprehensive system of mental-health and addiction care for British Columbians.
Lacey Mesley, community-led crisis response team manager, AVI Health and Community Service, PACT Victoria –
“From the moment you say hello you are being met with kindness and compassion. The support we provide is led by the individual experiencing crisis and is grounded in best practices of what works. Our team in Victoria has only been operational for a couple of months and we can see the impact and purpose in navigating someone in distress with care.”
Todd Doherty, MP, Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention –
“Providing the tools necessary to ensure those that need help get it is paramount. Peer Assisted Care will be a huge benefit to those in need and the Prince George Community as a whole. As legislators we have to continue to raise awareness, but more importantly, we need to provide the grassroot caregivers the support they need in communities here in BC and across Canada.”
Simon Yu, Mayor, Prince George –
“We are so happy the Province has chosen Prince George as one of the next PACT communities. We are pleased to have this program launch in our community to assist our citizens with increased support when they are experiencing a mental-health crisis, when previously they may not have reached out to anyone. We are looking forward to rolling this out within our community over the coming months.”
Brandi MacAulay, Director of Health, Prince George Native Friendship Centre –
“Responding to people experiencing a mental-health crisis as a friend, rather than a force, is the first step towards healing our communities most vulnerable populations.”
Riley Skinner, Executive Director, Crisis Centre for Northern BC –
“The community of Prince George would benefit greatly from a PACT. Currently, we have many gaps in the crisis-care continuum negatively impacting our ability to provide the highest quality trauma-informed care at the lowest barrier possible. In the absence of peer-assisted solutions we rely on police intervention, costing resources for the community and often times, the trust of our services users. The Crisis Centre for Northern BC supports the development of a PACT without reservation.”
Ronna-Rae Leonard, MLA for Courtenay-Comox –
“Our government is taking action on the biggest challenges we face to keep people safe and communities healthy and thriving. The Peer Assisted Care Team will help many vulnerable people in our community when they are in crisis, while freeing up police to focus on crime and law enforcement.”
Wendy Morin, Acting Mayor of Courtenay and Director of Comox Valley Regional District –
“Our council has been advocating for support at the provincial level for members of our community who are experiencing distress and needing help, and we are thrilled this incredible program is going to be launching in the Comox Valley. The PACT will provide compassionate and informed care on the ground with local expertise and involving those with lived experience. This will be a truly community-led and driven initiative, and we’re so excited to see it coming to fruition.”
Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni –
“I have advocated for PACT and believe this model will benefit every community in B.C. There are complex and well-documented social and economic determinants of poor mental health in communities. By integrating the perspectives and support of both peers and mental health professionals, a Peer Assisted Care Team can provide a powerful and comprehensive response to mental-health crises, promoting recovery, resilience, and well-being.”
Kamloops Mayor Hamer-Jackson –
“We are very happy for the support of the provincial government In choosing Kamloops with the PACT program we really appreciate it and are looking forward to working together to help make a better life for everyone.”
Dale Bass, City Councillor, City of Kamloops –
“Peer Assisted Care Teams represent another step closer to supporting the mental health and well-being of community members in Kamloops. We at city hall hear about the gaps in our community and have learned how PACT can play a vital role in supporting us to bridge these gaps in service. PACT should be in every community in B.C.”
Natasha Marshall, Interim Associate Executive Director, Secwepemc Child and Family Services –
“The PACT model of care addresses the gaps that currently exist for those in need of mental health supports. Removing barriers and meeting the individuals where they are at, this offers care that is anchored by compassion and focused on the individuals’ needs.”
- In B.C., one in five interactions with police involves someone with a mental health disorder.
- The first PACT launched in November 2021 on Vancouver’s North Shore, operated by CMHA North and West Vancouver.
- They are 200+ programs worldwide that provide civilian mental health mobile crisis services.
- A Rapid Investigation into Repeat Offending and Random Stranger Violence in British Columbia Report recommended “the Provincial Government continue to invest in civilian-led (non-police) mental health crisis response teams in collaboration with community service providers (e.g., Peer Assisted Care Teams).
- Province of BC News Release: Kamloops, Comox Valley, Prince George
- Learn about A Pathway to Hope, the government’s vision for mental health and addictions care in B.C.: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021MMHA0049-001787
- Learn about PACT and how to recommend your community: https://bc.cmha.ca/peer-assisted-care-teams/
- Learn about mental health and substance-use supports in B.C.: https://wellbeing.gov.bc.ca
CMHA BC Media Contact
Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions