Wait times skyrocket for some mental health services on the West Shore
Langford is the fastest-growing municipality in British Columbia and the rest of the West Shore is booming along with it. While that growth comes with many pros, it's also causing strain on local services, including the Pacific Centre Family Services Association (PCFSA). (CTV)
LANGFORD – Langford is the fastest-growing municipality in British Columbia and the rest of the West Shore is booming along with it. While that growth comes with many pros, it's also causing strain on local services, including the Pacific Centre Family Services Association (PCFSA).
Operating on the West Shore since 1968, PCFSA offers a wide range of vital services for people dealing with substance use, mental health issues, sexual abuse and day-to-day challenges.
The organization provides services for 2,500 people annually, with a staff of 25 councillors. There has always been a waitlist for services, but over the last few years, wait times for some services have quadrupled.
"The West Shore is exploding in population and so is the complexity of issues and just being able to keep up with the demand," said Jennifer Munro, clinical director for the PCFSA.
"So what has resulted is the waitlists have doubled, tripled and this year quadrupled, and the funding has not kept up with the demand we are seeing."
The agency's funding comes from a few different revenue streams. The main one is government ministries, but the organization also receives private donations. Both of those funding models are hard to rely on, because money seems to come in waves and very dependent on the economic climate at the time.
PCFSA has an affordable counselling program that allows people to see a councillor for a low rate. The wait-list for that program currently has 120 people on it.
"Their needs are not going to be met this year because we don't have the funding for that and that's just the reality of it in B.C. and the growing need for counselling, " said Munro. "It's the growth here that is putting pressure on every level: schools, community sources and the level of poverty that's increasing as well. It's traumatic."
Munro says wait times can be as long as seven months and that's just not acceptable. If someone realizes they need help and reaches out, she said, they may not come back if they have to wait that long.
"A lot can happen in seven months," Munro said. "I think what it does is it deepens the trauma and it increases the lifestyle that people have to turn to who can't get the support services they need."
There are a lot of factors contributing to the ongoing need for people to seek counselling, Munro said, noting that social media is a critical one. Whether it's online sexual exploitation or bullying, there is a rise in people seeking services as a result of online interactions.
It's not all doom and gloom though, the PCFSA is helping a lot of vulnerable people and successes are being made each and every day. Munro hopes there will be additional funding soon to meet the growing need for mental health services in a region that is fast outgrowing its existing services.