Province extends free, affordable community counselling services

January 27, 2022 at 11:34 am  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Emily Wagner, acting executive director, Community Action Initiative –

“This extension of the Community Counselling Fund will support thousands of British Columbians with access to low-cost and free counselling services during a time when so many people are struggling with social isolation, anxiety, grief and loss. In addition to the pandemic and extreme weather events, every community in B.C. has been touched by the toxic drug crisis, and the need for accessible, high-quality mental-health and wellness supports is vast. This continued investment from the Province of B.C. recognizes that need and the critical role of community-based organizations as a low-barrier entry point to accessing culturally safe, inclusive and holistic care, where and when people need it most.”

Jonny Morris, chief executive officer, Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division –

“Everyone has the right to their best possible mental health, and for many people, access to quality, reliable and effective counselling is a vital part of their mental-health journey. We’re grateful to the Province of B.C. for extending one of the most significant and profound ongoing investments in publicly funded psychotherapy and counselling in B.C. This investment will help ensure more people get the right support, where they’re at, at the right time.”

Amanee Elchehimi, director, health promotion, DIVERSEcity –

“This funding has supported DIVERSEcity’s counselling programs to respond to the ever-growing need for culturally agile, safe and responsive counselling services for BIPOC and newcomer communities. As a primary mental-health service provider for immigrant, refugee, ethno-cultural and racialized communities in the Lower Mainland, we have witnessed exponential growth in referrals over the course of the past two years. This funding has enhanced our capacity to centralize our referral and intake systems, develop and train our teams in anti-racist and anti-oppressive counselling practices, and to provide essential clinical supervision and support to staff on the frontlines – ultimately leading to better support and outcomes for community members.”

Adrienne Carter, director of services, Vancouver Island Counselling Centre for Immigrants and Refugees (VICCIR) –

“The most significant impact of the community counselling funding for our organization and staff is the ability to pay our counsellors and supervisors who were previously offering their services pro bono. Because our counsellors are now compensated, we are able to access a wider pool of potential counsellors, not just those who can afford to volunteer. The result is our organization has become more diverse in many ways, including the lived experience of our staff, the variety of counselling modalities offered and the variety of languages in which we can provide service to our clients.”

Michelle Moloney, director of clinical programs, Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver –

“The most significant impact of the COVID surge funding has been the ability to provide counselling at no cost. Many of the women and their families that we serve live in deep poverty and are distrustful of asking for help, fearful it will bring their children under government scrutiny. Female-headed families live with the greatest gap under the poverty line, which makes cost of transportation and the cost of service itself a major barrier to access. There are virtually no free services, and even sliding scales are still prohibitively expensive for them. Anecdotally, when faced with these choices, clients advise that what must be sacrificed is counselling rather than other priorities: food, shelter, transport. Even a $20 fee makes counselling inaccessible for many of the clients that we serve. The COVID surge funding has allowed us to provide counselling, free of cost, and make such counselling accessible to all.”

Suzy Trajkovic, member, Arrowhead Clubhouse, and client, Sunshine Coast Community Services Society –

“COVID has made life much harder. This funding is so needed, and it means my Clubhouse can switch to offering virtual supports. We can get help online and on the phone; we even each got a small tablet so we can connect with our families and with staff on Zoom. COVID is so isolating, and this funding helps us keep our community of hope alive.”

Client, Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre Society –

“Sometimes when an appointment was coming up that would spur on a panic attack, I would think ‘Oh my gosh. I can’t leave the house. I have to stay here.’ I would start to have all these thoughts and feelings. Whereas with the Zoom call, I don’t have to leave the house. Even though that is not a huge thing for me, I have other friends who struggle with mental health where leaving the house is a huge barrier. These Zoom sessions have been life changing.”

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