Project expansion supports more children and families

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CHILDREN and families affected by mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence will receive greater support through the expansion of an innovative health and safety initiative, the province announced on Monday.

The Safe Relationships, Safe Children project, which launched as community pilots last fall in Richmond and Vernon, helps front-line staff in a variety of health and community settings better and more consistently manage situations where mental illness, problematic substance use and domestic violence may put children’s safety at risk.

The project puts more effective procedures in place, ensuring vital information is shared and service providers are trained to determine risk and address the safety needs – not only of parents in treatment – but also of their children, partners and other family members by:

* Identifying, as early as possible, parents with serious untreated mental illness, problematic substance use or risk of domestic violence whenever they come in contact with health care or Ministry of Children and Family Development services.

* Determining when there is a risk to children.

* Connecting affected families with appropriate supports and services.

* Monitoring affected families for their progress of over time.

A community tool kit and a guide to enhance practice have been developed based on the findings in the initial pilot communities. These are now being shared with 19 additional communities and will continue to be revised and updated as the next phase-in what will be an eventual provincewide program.

As work continues in Richmond and Vernon, the following communities have been selected to use the new screening tools, risk assessments, information-sharing and referral processes: Abbotsford, Agassiz, Campbell River, Castlegar, Dawson Creek, Duncan, Hope, Kamloops, Langley, Masset – Haida Gwaii, Nanaimo, Powell River, Quesnel, Salmon Arm, Sechelt, Squamish, Terrace, Tri-cities and Victoria.

A provincial steering committee with representatives from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the Ministry of Health, health authorities and the Provincial Office of Domestic Violence is guiding overall project development.

This project is part of government’s response to the Representative for Children and Youth’s report, Honouring Kaitlynne, Max and Cordon: Make Their Voices Heard Now.

Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development, said: “We know that prevention and early intervention are critical to meeting the needs of vulnerable children and families. By improving the training and information-sharing processes within the health care and child-serving systems, staff will be better able to work proactively to protect children and help families get timely services and supports.”

Health Minister Terry Lake: “It is important that families have access to the appropriate services and supports in times of crisis. The success of the pilot projects in Richmond and Vernon means our government can now expand the program to more families around the province, so they can get help when it is needed.”