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New team will help people in mental-health, substance-use crisis in Prince George

July 7, 2023 at 2:13 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

People experiencing a mental-health or substance-use crisis 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.

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 and 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.

Quotes:

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.”

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.”

Quick Facts:

  • In B.C., one in five interactions with police involve 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.

Learn More:

Learn about A Pathway to Hope, 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://cmha.bc.ca/peer-assisted-care-teams/

Learn about mental-health and substance-use supports in B.C.: https://wellbeing.gov.bc.ca

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