Crisis support wait-free in city

People seeking support during a crisis situation in Nanaimo can receive help right away unlike other cities in the province.

People seeking support during a crisis situation in Nanaimo can receive help right away unlike other cities in the province where they may have to wait up to six weeks.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority’s Nanaimo Walk-in Crisis Counselling Clinic offers people an opportunity to speak to a mental health therapist within 30 minutes of walking in the door. It’s the only clinic of its kind in the province and one of two in Canada. The clinic was recently recognized by the B.C. Patient Safety and Quality Council under its Getting Better category, which acknowledges excellence in care for acute illness or injury. VIHA’s emergency department at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital was the runner-up for the Getting Better category.

Christina Krause, executive director of the council, said her group seeks to acknowledge those making positive, sustainable improvements in the quality of health care. Krause said the reduced waiting time has had a significant impact on the community.

“The dedication to improving client-centred mental health care is inspiring and required support from everyone at the clinic,” she said.

Terry Waterland, mental health clinician for the Nanaimo clinic, said getting the recognition has been a wonderful experience, especially because the staff is so passionate about helping people.

“It’s really been a joy to get this recognition,” she said.

It has also given staff the opportunity to promote the clinic model, which gives people more immediate access to help. The clinic has already gotten a call from members of Victoria’s mental health organizations about giving a presentation. Counsellors have also assisted the Vancouver Island University counselling team create a walk-in service.

Waterland said nearly every community has walk-in medical clinics where people can get services for medical needs such as a sprained ankle or broken finger; however, people that lose a loved one in a tragic accident or lose their home in a fire have to wait weeks for help.

Waterland said research suggests that the sooner a person receives service the better the outcome.

“It’s almost an immediate relief instead of living with a trauma or situation for weeks on end,” said Waterland about the Nanaimo clinic. “It’s available now and that’s when people need help.”

Judy Whittingham, VIHA coordinator of mental health and addiction treatment services for Nanaimo, said getting help right away can help prevent a person from getting worse and requiring a higher level of care down the road.

One of the unique aspects of the clinic is people can determine what they consider is a crisis situation and seek help to resolve it with the aid of counsellors at the clinic. The clinic also gets referrals from doctors.

“It’s kind of a leading-edge service,” said Waterland. “This is a really respectful client driven service.”

Once the client receives the treatment session they can also get information about other services in the community. Whittingham said the initial visit serves as a doorway into the rest of the services.

The clinic sees an average of 22 people a day, with busiest day seeing about double the visits. When a tragedy affects an entire community, such as a house fire where community members have died, the counsellors will go out to the community to counsel.

The clinic, located at 203-2000 Island Highway in the Brooks Landing shopping centre, is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Staff work in tandem with the Vancouver Island Crisis Society response team; the 24-hour crisis line is available by calling 1-888-494-3888.



The Vancouver Island Health Authority recently received kudos for its renal program’s efforts to reduce medication errors for kidney patients.

The renal program was recognized by the B.C. Patient Safety and Quality Council for work in minimizing the risk of medication errors for kidney patients across the province. The VIHA team partnered with the B.C. Renal Agency and other health authorities to create a system that checks between the renal agency’s database and pharmacy records to ensure health care providers have the most up to date medication information for patients.