New Westminster – On November 1, 2021, at the New Westminster City Council Meeting, Council approved the City’s participation in the Peer Assisted Crisis Team (PACT) pilot project in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division (CMHA BC). The PACT pilot project will take place in three locations across the province: the City of Victoria, the North Shore including the City and District of North Vancouver, and the City of West Vancouver. Participation in the pilot project marks an exciting opportunity to create a new direction in crisis response from a criminal model to a health model of community-based delivery.
“Mental health needs are growing in New Westminster, particularly among the unsheltered, and we need to find better ways to respond to these needs compassionately,” said Mayor Jonathan X. Coté. “I feel strongly that this pilot project will be an opportunity to work with our partners on improving community responses to these complex challenges that will focus on uplifting community health and wellbeing.”
The Peer Assisted Crisis Team pilot project will be a five-year pilot project that will see City staff and CMHA BC working with community organizations to form a mobile civilian-led team that will provide 24/7 alternative service to police response to crisis calls related to mental health. The key components of the project will be as follows:
- Pairs a mental health professional with a trained peer crisis responder
- Expands the range of mental health supports to New Westminster residents at higher risk of experiencing distress that may lead to police contact
- Intends to expand resources available to keep people living with mental illness and substance use and their families connected to their communities and voluntary mental health services
“I commend the City of New Westminster for their leadership in moving forward with the Peer Assisted Crisis Team pilot project,” said Jonny Morris Chief Executive Officer CMHA BC. “This project will profoundly impact lives by expanding the mental health and social support response to people in crisis. With a community-based approach, we can strengthen and improve crisis care for when we—or our neighbours—need it most.”
As part of phase 1, the City, community service providers, stakeholders and those with lived and living experience will form a community planning table to co-develop a New Westminster model for PACT in advance of an implementation plan. Council approval of the pilot project follows the City’s submission to the Province on reforming the police act with the goal of shifting mental health response from the police to civilian mental health professionals. Learn more about the City’s submission to the Province here.
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Executive Assistant to the Mayor
City of New Westminster