Community Presentation Vernon Women’s Transition House Society Providing Opportunities and Safety for Women and Children Organizational Information • • • • • • • • Incorporated in 1981 Non Profit, charitable organization 35 full time and part time staff 11 Programs 5 service locations 25 bed Transition House provides refuge to approximately 500 women and children a year Provide shelter and service to 2 teen women, with MCFD Referral More than doubled in size of staff, funding and service provision since 2000 Making the Link Approximately 85% of the women who stay at VWTHS have either an addiction, a mental health diagnosis or both. Most women state that they acquired their addiction or their mental health problem since experiencing abuse in their current or former intimate relationship. The most commonly used substances are prescription medication (anti anxiety, pain medication, sleep aids), marijuana, alcohol and crack cocaine in that order. Many women and teens have antidepressant prescriptions. The most common mental health diagnoses are depression, anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder. Guidelines for Admissions to VWTHS (taken from VWTHS Procedure Manual) Our priorities for admission, in order, are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Women assessed as High Risk by our local Integrated Assessment Team. Women with children leaving abuse in an intimate relationship (regardless of mental health diagnosis or addictions). Women without children leaving abuse (regardless of mental health diagnosis or addictions). Women who have been recently sexually assaulted. Homeless women who are pregnant or have children (regardless of mental health diagnosis or addictions). Women seeking safety for other reasons, i.e. exiting the sex trade, abuse by family member, pimp, etc. (admitted on a day by day basis) When in doubt, err on the side of caution and admit Guidelines for Asking Women to Leave VWTHS (Taken from the VWTHS Procedure Manual) All of the below should be asked to leave and go to the shelter, or RCMP should be called, depending on the situation: 1. Women who are violent toward staff or other residents. 2. Women who are persistently verbally abusive to other residents. 3. Women who attempt to provide drugs to other women or teens or attempt to introduce others to the sex trade. 4. Women who use hard drugs on the premises. Exceptions will rarely be made to the above. Consult with a coworker before you do make an exception. Ensure that all women who are asked to leave have a safe place to stay, whether it’s another transition house, shelter, motel or, for safety, RCMP cells. Service Challenges The most challenging obstacles we face in advocating for women with multiple barriers are: • Housing – as bleak as the affordable housing situation is for all women in the Okanagan, having an addiction or mental illness is one more obstacle. • Shortage of mental health, addictions and concurrent disorder clinicians and advocates leaves women without service or waits for service. • Waits for detox beds, residential treatment and supported recovery. Service Challenges Internal challenges that exist within VWTHS in our effort to provide low barrier services are: Dissenting opinions among staff regarding how to provide service to women with addictions and mental illness. Working with women with complicated problems takes more staff time and resources. This leaves less time for other women and children. Women with addictions can “trigger” others who are trying to maintain sobriety or are leaving a drug or alcohol using partner. Elevated needs for staff support and training. Given how busy everyone is, we often don’t make time for relationship building and networking with mental health and addictions service personnel. Low Barrier Services Qualities that should be inherent to low barrier services to women: Lower resident to staff ratio to meet the needs of everyone Private rooms for all residents 24/7, on call concurrent disorder counsellors should be available for support, consultation and outreach, where necessary, especially during detox period. “Soft” police intervention, when breakdown in service occurs. Opportunities for interdisciplinary training and networking. Current Activities Work closely with IHA Community Response Team and Concurrent Disorders Team, including job shadowing with each other. Mental Health and Addictions rep sits on the Integrated Case Assessment Team for suspected high risk cases and the Violence Against Women in Relationships (VAWIR) Committee (membership includes justice, social service, health agencies). Weekly review of cases for problem solving, planning Attention is paid to attitudes, values and beliefs regarding addictions and mental health when hiring. We provide regular professional development opportunities, such as CMHA’s Mental Health First Aid, to all staff Recommendations Transition Houses willing to provide low barrier services require resources and support to provide enhanced services. Facilitate information sharing, within the limits of privacy legislation and confidentiality, between agencies (addictions, mental health, anti violence programs, police). Police Domestic Violence Units should partner with community agencies with experience in providing low barrier service to women. Multidisciplinary training should be accessible and frequent.