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New approach at Greater Trail Victim Services Program results in five times more referrals

Staff are proactively reaching out following crisis to help people who may not know where to turn.

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary Greater Trail Victim Services Program works closely with the RCMP to offer victim services to people in the region who may have experienced trauma because of crime or another disturbing event.

The program has recently taken a more active role in finding clients in need of support rather than relying solely on referrals from the RCMP and other first responders. The result is a dramatic increase in the number of clients from 15 per month to over 70.

“This tells us the need for our services is real and that we have to make people more aware of what we do and how we can help. We know that untreated trauma affects millions of people every day and has a financial, mental, and health cost to society. We can often underestimate how much even a single traumatic event can negatively affect our sense of law and order,” said Brianna Reilly, Greater Trail Victim Services Program Manager at the RDKB.

The program finds potential clients based on a review of police call logs as well as contact with other frontline professionals such as hospital staff, Crown Counsel, doctors and emergency responders to seek out those victimized by crime or dealing with other trauma.

“We know from actual crime statistics that people have been under-utilizing victim services and we know that people have a greater sense of justice when police follow up with crimes including connecting victims with the right services to help them cope,” said Sergeant Mike Wicentowich of the Trail and Greater District RCMP Detachment. “We also know those who receive help with trauma often experience better court outcomes because they are better witnesses.”

Wicentowich said police officers often have little time to follow up with clients after a criminal event due to heavy investigation workloads and numerous other duties. Lack of police time is a reason victim services programs were created to work in conjunction with the police. 

“Having Greater Trail Victim Services manage all of our clients—both victims and witnesses—ensures they are getting good information, are assisted in court and receive follow up post-event to assess any further needs or questions,” said Wicentowich.

Initially, clients may refuse to access victim services when the police make the offer. Wicentowich said in the early stages of trauma people can believe they are unaffected by their experience and do not need support. A day or two later, clients may realize they have many questions, begin to feel the effects of trauma and are more receptive to help. The Victim Services Program then contacts clients to provide information about the police investigation. They inform clients whether a court proceeding will follow and if applicable, explain why an investigation or a proceeding may not result in the charges or sentencing clients were expecting or hoping for.

While crime is an obvious source of trauma, motor vehicle or other accidents can also affect those first on scene, bystanders and others who may witness terrible events.

“People who come across any emergency situation may try to help, be unable to help and feel powerless, or they may relive their own situations from the past and feel re-traumatized following these events and need support,” said Brianna Reilly, Greater Trail Victim Services Program Manager for the RDKB. 

“In the Trail and the Greater District and across the RDKB we want to support a vibrant, mentally healthy community and that starts with us supporting the victims of crime and witnesses to crime. We are committed to this program because we see the value in better preparing citizens for their role in the justice system and elsewhere in the community by reducing the impacts from trauma,” said Director Ali Grieve, Chair of East End Services, the RDKB committee that oversees the Greater Trail Victim Services Program. 

Victim Services provides a range of help to clients including emotional support; referrals to counseling, legal or other services; assistance navigating the criminal justice system, accompanying victims during court proceedings and helping with Victim Impact Statements. The program can also provide transportation to the courthouse and tours in advance of court proceedings. For victims of non-criminal trauma, the program can also provide crisis intervention, on-scene support, bereavement assistance, explain trauma and grief reactions and refer clients to counseling.

The Greater Trail Victim Services Program is co-funded by the RDKB and the Ministry of Public Safety & Solicitor General. The program team is located in the Trail and Greater District RCMP Detachment and includes professionally trained staff and volunteers who operate 24/7 to ensure victims have immediate support following a traumatic experience. Anyone who needs help or knows someone who needs help can call 250-368-2184 or 250-364-2566.