Provincial minister of child and family development Stephanie Cadieux (right) announces a pilot project starting in Vernon that will strengthen supports for families affected by domestic violence

Provincial minister of child and family development Stephanie Cadieux (right) announces a pilot project starting in Vernon that will strengthen supports for families affected by domestic violence

Ministries launch pilot project

The focus will be to identify and manage situations where childrens’ safety may be at risk

Two provincial ministries are helping to strengthen support for families affected by mental illness, domestic violence and substance abuse.

The ministry of children and family development and ministry of health announced Thursday the launch of pilot projects in Vernon and Richmond to help front-line staff in a variety of health and community settings better and more consistently identify and manage situations where childrens’ safety may be at risk.

“These pilots will be an essential step in ensuring that effective procedures are in place so that vital information can be shared, and that staff members are adequately trained to assess risk factors and better address safety needs,” said Stephanie Cadieux, the minister of children and family development, who was at the Vernon Health Centre Thursday morning to announce the launch.

The goal of the project is to identify as early as possible parents or individuals with serious untreated mental illness or substance abuse problems and/or risk of family domestic vilence when they come in contact with the health care system or ministry of child and family development in other areas.

When safety risks to children or others in the home have been identified, the projects are going to seek to ensure that protocols are in place to connect families with the most appropriate supports and services, then monitor their progress over time.

“These projects are just the first steps in an eventual province-wide program to better support those impacted by substance abuse, mental illness and domestic violence,” said Cadieux.

The new project will work well with one already established, the North Okanagan Integrated Case Assessment Team (iCAT), who began developing a similar model four years ago, and began reviewing cases three years ago.

“As of August, we’ve reviewed 50 situations of higher risk domestic violence and I’m convinced that we’ve kept the women and children safer, and offered proactive interventions to the offenders that have been in their lives,” said Debby Hamilton, executive director of the Vernon Women’s Transition House Society and co-founder of iCAT.

“We’ve seen cost savings, reduction in the use of resources, fewer breaches, fewer or non-existent recurrences of violence and more guilty pleas.

“It’s just a better way to avoid duplication of services and to provide a seamless service for the women and the kids.”

Hamilton said all of the cases reviewed by iCAT have been women, but the group is just as responsive to men and same sex couples.

Vernon RCMP Sgt. Robb Daly who, along with Hamilton, were honoured in 2011 with provincial awards for their work on iCAT, said training has begun in other B.C. communities.

“We see this pilot project as another step to ensuring what we’re doing is being accepted across the province,” said Daly. “It’s really key for the safety of people in Vernon and people who move from Vernon to other areas to escape scrutiny and protect women and children. We see this as a great step forward.”