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Letter: Hey, New West. Let's work together to solve social problems

The Purpose Society, based in New Westminster, is encouraging the community to put aside all negativity for the benefit of those in crisis.
New West residents attended a crime and public safety forum on Nov. 8.

The Editor:

Re: Crime and public safety: What happened at New West public forum? (Nov. 9, 2023)

At a recent crime and public safety forum, a panel of three commented on various aspects of crime, safety and policing in New Westminster.

All three are respected members of various communities connected to policing in some way.

There were comments that until the police do it differently, we’re spinning in a cycle that just keeps going.

There was disappointment expressed "that the police are not willing to try something else, another way of doing things, another way of doing policing, another way of structuring the police."

These statements do not reflect the work being done by the province, the city, the fire department and the police department, specifically, to change the way things are being done or how a person who is experiencing a crisis in New Westminster now receives service.

The Peer Assisted Care Team (PACT) has been providing a response to crisis calls for a year.

The team is made up of a Mental Health Worker and a person with personal experience facing mental health or substance use challenges.

They have received extensive training in providing services, scene safety, assessment, and other pertinent areas.

Several members of the city council supported bringing this program to New Westminster and, after much work, were successful.

The program is funded by the provincial government, administered by CMHA and Purpose is the local service provider. The PACT team will respond to anyone who is having a mental health or substance use crisis.

The team will take calls from the individual in crisis, a family member, a community person, another organization, the fire and police department.

The fire and police departments will make referrals to the PACT program when they know it is a mental health or substance use crisis and better handled by a mental health worker.

They will also call the PACT team from the scene once they have determined the scene is safe and the person is in crisis. They will refer wellness checks to the PACT program.

CMHA and Purpose staff update the city council on a regular basis about the PACT program generally and the gains that are being made in changing the way a person in crisis receives service.

It is unfortunate that this information was not shared at the recent forum and the changes in how the police and others are responding to people in crisis were not recognized. The police are open to new things, willing to try a new approach and work with the community.

Organizations are not changed overnight. People see a better way to do things, the organizational culture starts to shift, some people are immediately on board, others take longer to see the value of the change, but there is no doubt that change is happening in New Westminster, with service providers generally, and, specifically, with the police department.

With all the division and tension that exists in the world and in New Westminster, let’s work together, think positively, be forward thinking, speak kindly of one another and look for ways forward that focus on solving our social problems.

If you would like more information on the PACT of if you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, call 778-727-3909.

- Lynda Fletcher-Gordon, M.S.W.

The Purpose Society