Community Presentation

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:
Women assessed as High Risk by our local Integrated Assessment
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
When in doubt, err on the side of caution and admit
Guidelines for Asking Women to Leave
(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:
Women who are violent toward staff or other residents.
Women who are persistently verbally abusive to other residents.
Women who attempt to provide drugs to other women or teens or
attempt to introduce others to the sex trade.
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
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
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.

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