The Comox Valley will soon have a community-led crisis response team to help those in a mental health or substance-use crises.
“There are times when we have police agencies called for situations that are really about mental health, and so peer assisted care teams are very much about providing an appropriate trauma-informed interaction for people who are experiencing mental health or addictions crisis,” said B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jennifer Whiteside.
One in five police interactions in B.C. involve someone with a mental health disorder and the Comox Valley RCMP say anything to take the load off police is a good idea.
The teams of two that respond have proven successful in three other B.C. communities, including Victoria.
“I have seen this work. I have experienced this work. I’ve seen lives saved and seen people connected to services that they weren’t otherwise connected to,” said Lacey Mesley, community-led crisis response team manager, with AVI Health and Community Service and PACT Victoria.
“Calling the police as we know isn’t always appropriate because often times these aren’t criminal incidents in nature,” said Acting Courtenay Mayor Wendy Morin.
The teams of two are made up of peers who have been through similar experiences and mental-health professionals who will serve people 13 years of age and older in the Comox Valley. The teams will be available 24 hours a day.
“You know there’s a combination of people being frustrated, I think, because they don’t know how to help people who are in distress,” added Morin. “[It’s] often in the downtown streets, but sometimes in a neighbourhood somewhere there’s a neighbour experiencing some problems and they don’t know what to do,.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) says it has learned from people what they want and need in a mental health crisis situation.
“They want to be met with compassion. They want to feel safe. They want to feel in control of the situation that they’re in,” said Jonny Morris, CEO, CMHA BC.
“They don’t want to feel as if they’re in trouble because they’ve done something wrong, and they don’t want to feel stigmatized for experiencing a health crisis,” he said.
The new Peer Assisted Care Team should be available in the Comox Valley late this year.