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

Mayor Simon Yu

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.

“We are so happy the province has chosen Prince George as one of the next PACT communities,” said Mayor Simon Yu. “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.”

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.

“The community of Prince George would benefit greatly from a PACT,” said Riley Skinner, executive director, Crisis Centre for Northern BC. “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.”

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.

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