Victoria’s peer-assisted crisis team appears to be making a difference for mental health appeals – Saanich News
The police aren’t always the best person to respond to someone in crisis, and they shouldn’t be expected.
This is one of the main principles behind a new pilot project being developed in Victoria this year that will prioritize the provision of peer-assisted mental health support to people in distress.
A person experiencing a mental health crisis now has limited options. They can call the police or an ambulance – neither can offer constructive support and both can be anxiety-provoking for vulnerable populations – or, if they know, they can call the crisis line. Vancouver Island to access a mobile crisis response. team of social workers, nurses and plainclothes police between 1 p.m. and midnight.
Two things are missing, according to the CEO of the British Columbia chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Jonny Morris. A peer-assisted response and a structure that ensures crisis calls are followed by the best people.
“Having a peer, someone who has lived experience with mental illness and is also trained, can do a lot to make someone feel safe in the moment,” Morris said.
Victoria received $ 350,000 from BC’s Strengthening Communities’ Services program in August and will use the next year to consult with the community and develop a pilot program based on their feedback. The resulting crisis response team will likely include a combination of trained peers, mental health and social workers, and psychiatric nurses to respond to mental health calls instead of or in combination with the police.
Different forms of crisis response teams are just starting to take off in Edmonton, Toronto and Saskatchewan, but a model has long existed in Eugene and Springfield, Oregon. There, the CAHOOTS team handles approximately five to eight percent of police service calls. This can ease the burden on the police and allow them to respond to more serious criminal calls.
Being overworked is something the Victoria Police Department has often raised concerns about. Const. Del Manak has expressed support for diverting some mental health appeals, as long as they do not drain from the police budget.
“In recent years, police services have had to fill the void created by gaps in social programs, which often puts police in an untenable position. Often the police are the only ones to call in situations where a social worker or mental health professional might have been more appropriate, ”he wrote in a press release in June 2020, shortly after that. Chantal Moore was shot dead by a police officer. in New Brunswick during a welfare check.
A mental health response team also has the ability to provide a person in crisis with support that could help break the cycle of urgent needs. Often, Morris said, crises are the result of the loss of a job, home or loved one, or issues with the law, addiction or mental health. These issues must be addressed for long-term change to occur, he added.
The issue of alternative approaches to mental health appeals has been raised again in the region recently. On September 12, a man described in a report to Saanich police as being armed and in crisis was shot and killed by a policeman near the Mayfair shopping center, after about an hour of negotiations. The incident is under investigation by the British Columbia Bureau of Independent Investigations
Morris said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the specific incident, but pointed out that having expertise in mental health during a crisis provides opportunities for different types of interactions.
Victoria County. Sarah Potts, who works closely with the peer-assisted crisis team, agreed, noting that had the team been in place the response would have been different and possibly a better outcome.
“What we do know is that when we have healthcare professionals on the front line of a mental health crisis, people don’t die,” she said.
The peer-assisted crisis pilot team should be fully operational within one year.
Anyone in need of mental health support can now call the British Columbia 24/7 Crisis Line at 310-6789 (no area code required).
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