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Creative Solutions in a Time of Crisis

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of society including the way many organizations are delivering essential services. This is true for Communitas Supportive Care Society and for the way the organization is delivering its mental health services.

In order to prevent the spread of the virus, Communitas’ Peer Support Workers (PSW) are no longer able to visit the In-Patient Units (IPUs, or psychiatric units) at their local hospitals, leaving patients there without this unique service.

Patrick Raymond manages Communitas’ Peer Support Services for Surrey, White Rock, Delta, and Langley. He and his colleagues understand and fully support the efforts needed to combat the pandemic. At the same time, they felt they needed to find a way in the midst of this crisis to support those whose mental health is already fragile.

Meeting with and listening to people is the bulk of what PSWs do. We were concerned that the people we serve on these units would have little opportunity to share their fears or stresses with a peer who understands their situation. – Patrick, manager

Peer Support provides support toward recovery from a staff member who has lived experience with mental health challenges. For many, this support is a life-line, offering hope when things seem hopeless.

Patrick and his colleagues felt strongly that they had to find a way to continue to support the people they serve both in the hospital and in community. They came up with two unique solutions: the creation of a “Warm Line” (a 1-800 number) and an online webinar.

Patrick refers to himself as “a bit of a tech head”, so taking on the challenge of researching and implementing a 1-800 line was not daunting. His comfort with technology, combined with 15 years of experience in the field, including his own training in crisis line support, means Patrick was uniquely qualified to set up the Warm Line fairly quickly.

Peer Support staff are using their phones to stay connected to the people they serve.

“It took about two weeks to set up the technology, and produce the training, guidelines, policies, and code of conduct to ensure that we are providing a consistent service and create accountability,” Patrick says.

Along with the Warm Line, Communitas will now also offer an online, adapted version of WRAP (Wellness, Action, Recovery Plan), a self-designed prevention and wellness process that is used to help individuals toward their mental health recovery.  Facilitators, who are fully trained and certified by the Copeland Centre for Wellness and Recovery, will offer an Introduction to WRAP or a WRAP Follow-up using Zoom technology. Jacqui Toews, program director for Communitas, says this additional support will make a difference to those who are experiencing additional stress because of the pandemic.

“Offering WRAP online is meant to develop skills to manage one’s stress and mental wellness during this extraordinary time,” Jacqui says, adding that technology is making it possible for PSWs to continue their work. “These integral services are continuing in new and creative ways to provide the same great service our Peer Support program is known for.”

Patrick agrees, saying that he is proud of the way his PSW team has rallied to take up this challenge and continue supporting the people they serve.

Offering WRAP webinars online means people can get the tools they need to manage their mental health

“I am very fortunate to have staff who love what they do,” he says. “They have shown resilience and adaptability in taking on new ways of providing service and they’ve done it with great enthusiasm.”

Patrick also acknowledges the support of Fraser Health in these efforts.

“Angela Louie, the coordinator for mental health and substance use, was a real support,” he says. “She worked with me on these initiatives to make sure we covered all our bases.”

Anthony Neptune, manager for rehabilitation and recovery services, mental health, and substance use for Fraser Health, is also grateful for these extraordinary efforts.

“I appreciate the work that Patrick has taken on,” he wrote in an email. “It is encouraging to have colleagues like this who are working so hard in support of the people we collectively serve.”

Patrick feels confident that these resources will not only support people in the midst of this pandemic but in the future.

“This is a very unique time and it has made us do some creative things we’ve never done before,” he reflects. “While we still have a way to go before this is all over, I hope when we look back we can say that we are even better prepared for challenges that may arise.”

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