On the eve of the one-year anniversary for our Peer Assisted Care Team (PACT), we want to share a little about our journey and where we have landed. In 2021, CMHA North & West Vancouver (NWV) branch worked alongside our provincial office to move forward with an idea to launch BC’s first civilian team, responding to mental health crises.
As a society, we continue to face the reality that we have countless individuals who need mental health care. Although the PACT program supports people in crisis, it is not exclusive to this type of support. A large component of PACT is about early intervention. CMHA believes in adopting a more proactive approach by meeting people where they are at. You do not need to be in crisis to access PACT services.
The knowledge we had before the launch of PACT has been reiterated this past year:
- People living with mental health conditions are no more likely to engage in violent behaviour than the general population
- People with varying types of distress want to be listened to
- Mental illness does not just impact one person but a whole family
- Stigma, shame, and discrimination prevent many people from reaching out for support
- The responses our society often offers (emergency services, hospital room visits, expensive therapy) are not always what people need, and usually not what people want
- There are many gaps in the services for BIPOC communities
- There is a general lack of accessible and affordable mental health services
We also knew:
- Our team would offer an alternative to a police response because police and emergency interventions are complicated, and can be stigmatizing and traumatizing
- Our team would include someone who was trained to share their own lived experience of navigating the system or supporting someone who has
- Our team would have to commit to being here for the long term and building trust, one person at a time
In the last year, we have responded to almost 700 contacts from our community on the North Shore. People reach us through a phone number distinct from 911; they ask for help in English or in Farsi; and they request support by text, phone or in person. We do not involve the police, nor do we share information with them.
When we respond, we do not just default to what has been done before. We believe each person is an expert on themselves and unless the situation is so severe that they pose an immediate risk to themselves or others, they get to choose what kind of help they want and when they want it.
To access PACT services, call 1-888-261-7228 or text 778-839-1831 (available in English and Farsi). Our service hours are Thursday to Sunday, 6pm to 12 midnight.
We would sincerely like to thank the community, stakeholders, PACT, and CMHA team members for helping make this program a reality. Thank you to those of you who shared your stories, those of you who invited us to come and speak with your teams about this innovative new service, those of you who sat alongside us at the planning table when this was just a dream, and a big thank you to those who trusted in our program to contact PACT for support. We know our vision of a mentally healthy community starts with each person feeling like they can share and ask for support.