On Friday, June 17th, Stacy Ashton, Executive Director of the Crisis Centre of BC in Vancouver presented recommendations for improving British Columbia’s crisis care response system at the Budget 2023 Consultation Public Hearing. Ashton presented as part of the BC Crisis Line Network, which is the network of crisis centres located across the Province of British Columbia, answering calls made to the 1-800-SUICIDE and 310-Mental Health (310-6789) crisis lines.
The Public Hearing was organized by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, which is a parliamentary committee of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. The Committee is responsible for holding annual public consultations to receive input from British Columbians about their ideas and issue priorities. The input gathered at the hearing informs the Committee’s recommendations to the Legislative Assembly for the following year’s budget.
Three recommendations were presented: :
1) Introduce a province-wide 911 levy for all phone services to fund crisis line access as the 911 4th option.
2) Create infrastructure for crisis lines to directly refer callers to crisis mobile response teams led by mental health professionals and including peer support workers.
3) Appoint a provincial task force drawn from crisis lines, 911, BC Ambulance, and Canadian Mental Health Association, mandated to create legislation for the 911 levy and the crisis care response system.
911 levies are collected by cell and landline providers in 6 provinces; BC is one of the few Provinces not utilizing this reliable and non-controversial funding mechanism, with an estimated value of $58 million per year. In a recent study conducted by Leger, 92% of British Columbians support adding mental health crisis support as a 911 option; 73% of British Columbians specifically support introducing a 911 levy to fund the 911 mental health option.
Our crisis responders work with callers to create consensual collaborative safety plans. Where in-person response is needed, it is far easier to gain consent to a non-coercive visit from a mental health team than to an armed police response – and from a budget perspective, far less expensive.
A 911 levy directed at funding crisis lines to respond to mental health crises brings new money into a crisis care system that sorely needs it, and invests it where it can do the most good. The BC Crisis Line Network is counting on the Select Standing Committee and the Provincial Government to enact these common-sense initiatives which will help to protect and care for British Colmbians.
You can read our full report here.