When VIHA merged six local crisis lines into one regional line, the North Island Crisis Line didn’t roll over.
Believing that a regionalized service wouldn’t serve the community well, it kept its local line alive by drawing from its reserves. In February, the Vancouver Island Health Authority stepped up with funding.
“They recognized … this was tried and clearly there were huge gaps in service with the centralized line,” said Chris Parker of the North Island Crisis and Counselling Centre.
VIHA has a different take on its so-called change of heart.
“We had worked with that organization to address their concerns about the crisis outreach work and counselling services,” said spokesperson Shannon Marshall. “That’s the funding we have restored, but they may divert some of that to continue their crisis line.”
Don’t expect the same turnaround in Victoria, whose local crisis line shut down in June.
Staff and volunteers have moved on and the infrastructure has been disassembled, said executive director Jane Arnott.
“Recreating anything at this point would be incredibly difficult,” she said, adding, “I still think that the model of more localized service is probably a stronger one.”
So far, however, Victorians in crisis seem unhindered by the change. Call volumes have not been affected since the Vancouver Island Crisis Line replaced locally based crisis lines.
“The numbers are really comparable,” said Heather Owen, community relations co-ordinator for the Island-wide line, operated by the Central Vancouver Island Crisis Society in Nanaimo.
On an average month, the Nanaimo-based crisis line receives between 1,000 and 1,200 calls from the Victoria area. Of those callers, 75 to 95 are connected to further help, called “interventions.”
Those averages have changed very little from when the crisis line was located in Victoria.
“Even though things have changed, the service is still there,” said Owen.
– with files from the North Island Gazette