A full-time mental health clinician will soon be operating in Quesnel as part of a two-year mental health and wellness capacity-building pilot project.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) will fund one full-time Clinical Program Co-ordinator/Clinician position and one part-time administrative support position for the two-year pilot project, and Quesnel Council has approved office space, at no charge, at 345 Anderson Dr. (the previous Community Policing Access Centre) in West Quesnel and up to $5,000 to outfit this office. The office’s hours of operation will be Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This pilot will focus on strengthening capacity for community-based mental health and psychosocial services and supports for adults, children, youth and families who live in Quesnel and surrounding areas.
Doris Hocevar, the Community Wellness Manager with United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo, made a presentation about the initiative to council Tuesday, June 25.
Hocevar was hired as one of four community wellness managers throughout the Thompson, Nicola and Cariboo regions in April 2018, and each one was tasked with identifying the psychological and psycho-social impacts that resulted from the 2017 wildfires.
“As you all know, the impacts are certainly far-reaching and are impacting the economy, education, family, environment, and we will see these impacts probably for many years to come, for generations to come,” she said.
This Community Wellness Initiative falls under the B.C. Wildfire Mental Health and Wellness Recovery Strategy.
A Quesnel Mental Health and Wellness Plan for Wildfire Recovery Plan was developed through this work, and one of the top recommendations was to “somehow figure out a way to bring Canadian Mental Health Association resources to our community,” explained However.
To help inform that process, Hocevar created a sub-committee of the Quesnel Wellness Working Group, the CMHA Advisory Committee, and that committee has had two meetings so far.
The committee identified gaps in services, which include a lack of outreach mental health support; no outreach mental health support for adults, youth, families and the elderly; a need for trauma counselling and support; there is nowhere to access a drop-in counselling service; the need for community navigators who can assist people in finding timely and accessible resources; and the need for counsellors to respond during evacuations and check in on people who have been relocated.
Hocevar says they also identified the vulnerable populations in our community as seniors, youth, First Nations Elders, children, the homeless, people with addictions, people with mental health issues, people with disabilities and people for whom English is a second language.
Hocevar approached CMHA Prince George executive director Maureen Davis more than a year ago, and she says she was thrilled when she said yes, she was interested in being involved.
“With that comes a full-time, five-days-a-week mental health clinician to support the mental health and psychosocial needs of individuals who are needing that service,” said Hocevar. “The other piece that continuously showed up in the work I was doing was the need to have more clinicians to support Nazko, Lhoosk’uz Dene Nation, Lhtako Dene Nation and ?Esdilagh First Nation. I’ve had an opportunity to speak with the health directors of each of those First Nations and also with First Nations Health Authority.”
Hocevar says they hope to identify and provide healing through skills-based therapeutic interventions to individuals and families that have been impacted by fires and floods, and to support and enhance natural peer support in the community and support those who have been dealing with complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“We will provide mental health outreach support, granted it is only one position, and like every new position, we will be generating stats, and we will be getting those numbers, and all of that information will be put in its respective place, whether it’s adult, child, youth,” said Hocevar. “We will be keeping track of numbers, and I’m absolutely certain there will be a waitlist.”
Hocevar says the CMHA will also be providing Mental Health First Aid training and training for programs such as ASIST, SafeTalk, Safe and Sound, Duct Tape Isn’t Enough, Bounce Back, Bounce Back for Youth and Living Life to the Full, and they are planning to offer a peer volunteer program.
Hocevar told council they already have three candidates for the new position.
Councillors thanked Hocevar for the work and energy she has put into bringing these mental health supports and services to Quesnel.
“It’s something we need within this community, and it’s a great opportunity to work with agencies and organizations working in mental health,” said Coun. Tony Goulet. “I’m happy this will be long-term work in the community.”
Both Goulet and Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg expressed they were glad to see statistics will be kept and shared.
“Doris, you’re such a driver to get this position to come to Quesnel,” said Roodenburg, adding she really likes the piece around Mental Health First Aid training and peer support. “For this to be in place now is amazing.”
Mayor Bob Simpson also thanked council for supporting this.
“Making the space available is what’s making this possible, and it’s that real partnership,” he said.