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Answering the call, every time: Pathway to Hope

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Answering the call, every time: Pathway to Hope
Stacy Ashton, Executive Director

A ten-year action plan from the newly created Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions was released on June 29 called “Pathway to Hope: B.C.’s mental health roadmap”. In Minister Judy Darcy’s words:

At the heart of A Pathway to Hope is a powerful determination to make positive, lasting changes, so that B.C.’s system of mental health and addictions works for everyone – no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make. Our vision is one where every one of us can live in a state of physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well-being. 

I was very encouraged to see an “enhanced provincial crisis lines network” as a priority action in the first three years of the plan, as part of the “Improved Access, Better Quality” pillar.

The Crisis Centre distress lines are a key access point for mental health and addictions services in BC. 

Mental health and addiction services rely on us to be the back-up plan when they are not immediately available. We are the place people call when the mental health and addictions services they tried to access could not respond in the moment.

  • If a mental health worker, social worker, addictions worker, counsellor (privately funded or publicly funded) is not in the office when you call, their voice mail message will tell you to call the Crisis Centre if you are in emotional distress.
  • If you call for an ambulance, and it cannot get to you immediately, BC Ambulance will transfer your call to the Crisis Centre so you aren’t in pain and alone while you wait.
  • If you email the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions for a copy of the Pathway to Hope action plan, you will get an auto-reply that tells you to call the Crisis Centre if you are in crisis.

These are three in an endless list of ways you might be connected to the Crisis Centre.

We offer low barrier access to immediate support 24/7 – but access is only guaranteed when we have enough resources to meet demand. The first barrier Pathway to Hope identifies in ensuring British Columbians can access mental health services is pretty straight-forward: “When it comes to delivering mental health and substance use programs on the ground, service demand exceeds service capacity. It’s as simple as that.” 

To truly be accessible, every person in BC needs to be able to find help on their schedule, at the moment they need it. When they call, they need a person to answer. That’s our job. I am very encouraged to see the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions recognize that in her action plan, and I am excited to work with the Ministry and our crisis line partners on building our capacity to answer every call and chat that comes in.