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Expanded low- and no-cost community counselling, virtual services coming

Expanded low- and no-cost community counselling, virtual services coming

July 14, 2021 at 9:17 am  BC, News, Politics

More British Columbians now have access to free and low-cost support for mental health and substance-use challenges with expanded funding for community-based counselling programs, including virtual sessions, throughout the province.

Government is investing $2.4 million to ensure recently expanded community counselling services established early in the COVID-19 pandemic have continued funding until March 2022. This funding supports mental health and substance-use counselling services provincewide for underserved populations including in rural, remote and Indigenous communities.

“Now, more than ever, British Columbians need help with mental health and substance use,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Free and affordable counselling is an important part of the system of care we are building, and this additional funding will ensure people get the counselling help they need.”

Twenty community agencies will receive funding to extend the low- and no-cost mental health and substance use services started during the pandemic. The Province has been funding community counselling since 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on people’s mental health, some more than others, with 21% fewer Canadians reporting good or very good mental health since the pandemic began. This expansion of vital supports ensures that more people have access to the services they need. In the first year of funding, participating agencies held 60% more counselling sessions and provided counselling for 58% more people than in the previous year.

Expansion of affordable community counselling services is one way government is improving access and quality of care – 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.


Melinda Markey, executive director, Community Action Initiative –

“The extension of the COVID-19 Surge funds will support thousands of British Columbians with access to counselling services during a time when so many people are struggling due to increased isolation, anxiety and loss of income. In addition to COVID, every community in B.C. has been touched by the overdose crisis and the need for resources and systems support is vast. This investment recognizes that community settings are an important, low-barrier entry point to culturally safe, inclusive care for diverse population groups. Community-based organizations have done a tremendous job pivoting to virtual platforms on short notice, and now, hosting hybrid models as we move into what will hopefully be a COVID recovery phase.”

Maureen Davis, executive director, CMHA Prince George –

“It has been invaluable to have this ability to provide counselling to the people we see. The growth in the number of our clients is immeasurable. Virtually none of the clients involved had received, or remembered receiving, basic tools like deep breathing, ­thought stopping, ­grounding, etc. All but a handful recalled counselling being a brief check in to see how their meds were doing. We find that the majority of our clients ­who are considered to have significant and persistent mental illness ­ are often treated as though improvement is not possible. This counselling allows our life skills and vocational work to grow in leaps and bounds. Thank you for making this difference.”

Liz Nelson, executive director, Pacific Centre Family Services Association –

“The most significant impact of this funding has been for vulnerable individuals who do not meet the mandate of other funded programs and can’t afford private counselling fees, to receive much needed mental-health supports. We were able to recruit experienced counsellors who are trained in trauma therapy to provide vital counselling for those who need it the most and can afford it the least. Though this is a significant, ongoing, and underserved community need, this was particularly salient during this past year of a global pandemic. Mental-health crises are continuing to be on the rise, with not enough services to support all those in need. This funding has been crucial in providing timely support for many of these individuals.”

Recipient of counselling service from Share Family and Community Services –

“I am so thankful for this opportunity. Living on my own, I have felt so isolated and alone because of COVID. Being able to access counselling for free and by video has helped keep me safe – I am immunocompromised – and has given me the support and connection I so badly needed.”

Quick Facts:

  • In 2019, the Province invested $10 million in grants – made in partnership with Community Action Initiative (CAI) – to 29 community agencies over three years. This funding expanded low- and no-cost mental health and substance use counselling to September 2022.
  • Twenty additional organizations received COVID-19 funding in early 2020, in partnership with the Community Action Initiative. This announcement expands support for these 20 organizations to provide low- and no-cost mental health and substance use counselling services to March 2022.
  • Since 2019, the Province has invested $14.8 million to support a total of 49 community counselling agencies provincewide.

Learn More:

For a complete list of the all funded community counselling agencies, visit: https://caibc.ca/ccfprofiles/   

Free and low-cost mental health supports for British Columbians during and after COVID-19: http://www.gov.bc.ca/covid19mentalhealthsupports

To learn more about A Pathway to Hope, visit: https://bit.ly/33HyFHy

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