‘This is an alternative to calling 911’: Outreach program aims for more awareness

CHEK

Since launching the program at the beginning of 2023, the Peer Assisted Care Team (PACT) has fielded a total of 580 mental-health-related calls that otherwise would have gone through 911.

For those who need help when it comes to mental health, the stigma of asking for that help can be daunting. Since January of 2023, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has been running an outreach program for those who would rather have peer support instead of a police officer attending to the call.

The CMHA’s director of policy, Kim Mackenzie, says they designed the model and are grateful to AVI Health and Community Services for putting the boots on the ground and helping those experiencing a crisis.

“They are providing a very human response to a human experience. So AVI has done a beautiful job showing up with care, showing up and treating people with dignity and respect when folks are experiencing those situations where they need that help,” said Mackenzie.

Since the beginning of 2023, the program has fielded a total of 580 calls that would have otherwise gone to 911.

Victoria Coun. Krista Loughton has always been vocal about her mental health struggles and is passionate to try and raise awareness about PACT.

“I decided to go on a mission to try to raise awareness here in Victoria about the community lead response team and make sure everyone knows. This service is an alternative to calling 911 when people are in a mental health crisis,” Loughton said.

Loughton added that she knows this won’t solve all the mental health crisis issues in the city but feels it is an important program to help support those in need.

If you or someone you know would like to contact the PACT team in Victoria, you can call or text (250) 818-2454. The service currently operates from Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

The CMHA told CHEK News that they have received more funding from the province to turn the service into a 24-hour operation and are aiming to have it up and running once they have found the staff. 

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