Island Health expands access to mental health and substance use counselling

Residents of Vancouver Island living with moderate mental health and substance use challenges now have improved access to publicly-funded, community-based counselling through the addition or expansion of partnerships with 11 counselling service providers, which will collectively have capacity to meet the counselling needs of at least 1,500 clients each year. 

“People in our province have been through a lot, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the toxic drug crisis, climate emergencies including wildfires and the continued effects of colonialism and racism,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “These new services through Island Health give more people the support they need to manage these challenges and improve their mental wellbeing.”

The new counselling services are being put in place following Request for Proposals processes initiated by Island Health in 2022. The new services involve a mix of non-profit service providers, for-profit organizations, and in-person and virtual care. The services will provide mental health counselling and/or substance use counselling for people with moderate severity conditions. 

“This represents a significant expansion and investment in community-based counselling services to improve access to these services on Vancouver Island,” said Leah Hollins, Island Health Board Chair.  “The services will help those with lower acuity needs get the help and support they need, and mitigate potential escalation in their condition.” 

The new or expanded counselling services providing mental health and/or substance use counselling are: 

  • Cognito Health (virtual, region wide) , Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centre (virtual, region wide) 
  • EHN Outpatient Services (Nanaimo), North Island Crisis and Counselling Services (Port Hardy)
  • Pacific Centre Family Services Association (South Island)
  • Sooke Family Resources Society
  • West Coast Community Resources Society (Tofino/Ucluelet)
  • Umbrella Society (South Island)
  • Cool Aid Society (South Island)
  • Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Society (Nanaimo) - Indigenous-led and delivering culturally safe services and supports for Indigenous People
  • Victoria Native Friendship Centre - Indigenous-led and delivering culturally safe services and supports for Indigenous People 

“Island Health is honoured to be partnering with Indigenous-led organizations as part of this expansion,” said James Hanson, Island Health’s Vice President, Acute Care North and Community Services. “We recognize Indigenous people are disproportionally impacted by mental health and substance use and acknowledge the importance of providing timely access to safe, culturally appropriate services.”  

Access to the counselling services is via referral or self-referral through Island Health Mental Health and Substance Use locations. A list of locations and contact information is available at: Access - Referrals to Mental Health & Substance Use Services | Island Health

Clients will be able to access up to 12 publicly-funded counselling sessions. The new contracts will initially run for two years and are being phased in as the service providers increase their staff and capacity to provide the services.