I am proud to have the privilege to work with some truly amazing teams at CMHA WW as well as many great community partners to help implement the best care for individuals I am working with who have encountered the criminal justice system who struggle with mental health and/or addiction issues. I am most proud to see someone I am working with reach their support goals in which they have put a lot of work into. Seeing individuals reaching their greatest potential is the best reward of this work.
1. What is involved in your role?
As a mental health and justice support coordinator my role is to support individuals who have criminal charges who also struggle with mental health and/or addictions. I work with individuals I am supporting towards recovery as well as reducing and preventing their involvement in the Criminal Justice System. My role involves not only working with the individual, but their support system, community partners, doctors, lawyers, duty counsel, crown attorneys, police, institutions and probation officers to ensure the best support is provided for the individual I am working with so they can live a life where they feel wellness in their mental health, healthy, their basic needs are being met and to help reduce or prevent their involvement with the Criminal Justice System.
2. Why did you become involved in the mental health field?
I was originally going to school to become an elementary school teacher. I took a psychology course in university and became intrigued. I started volunteering at CMHA in Cambridge in the resource centre to gain further knowledge and experience. I was approached by the manager at the time who encouraged me to apply for a summer student position while I was in school working with the Mobile Crisis Team. This was my first introduction to crisis services and I fell in love with this work right away. I was no longer interested in becoming a school teacher and knew right away that crisis work was my calling. Helping people who are in a vulnerable state at their lowest low and getting them to a safe place, putting supports in place and being a support person was what I loved. I then was offered a part time position on the crisis line overnights while I was still finishing university. I was then approached about joining the mobile crisis team full-time once I had graduated. I made the switch and began supporting individuals out in the community doing what I love. When our agency merged back in 2014 our mobile crisis team became Here 24/7, where I continued to do crisis work as well as intake, which I still remain on that team in a relief capacity as it is still a passion of mine. I recently made the switch a year ago to mental health and justice as after 15 years of crisis work I was ready for more of a challenge and new learning experience. I now have two roles that I am very passionate about, Here 24/7 and Mental Health and Justice. Being able to support someone who has criminal charges and also struggles with mental health and addiction. Helping them get the support they need, staying involved with them, walking with them through the court process has been rewarding to watch someone get the support they need, and grow as an individual, living their life, seeing a positive outcome, that is what I love.
3. Have you always worked in mental health?
I have not always worked in mental health. After I completed college, for many years I had worked in the fitness industry, and had taught children’s aerobic classes, customer service and sales. As well I have worked as an early childhood educator in childcare settings. However since completing university it has only been mental health. 15 years later, I am glad my path has changed as I am working in a field that I love, and have been a long term employee with the Canadian Mental Health Association.
4. How do you support people in your role?
I support individuals aged 18+ who have a mental health and/or addiction issue and has been charged with a criminal offense in Guelph Wellington. I conduct risk assessments, intake assessments, referrals, Mental Health Diversion if appropriate (pre-trial procedure where the crown attorney can use their discretion to divert an accused individual from prosecution and connect them to mental health treatment), and provide support, education and advocacy on behalf of the individual.
5. What are you proud of during your time in your role?
I am proud to have the privilege to work with some truly amazing teams at CMHA WW as well as many great community partners to help implement the best care for individuals I am working with who have encountered the criminal justice system who struggle with mental health and/or addiction issues. I am most proud to see someone I am working with reach their support goals in which they have put a lot of work into. Seeing that individual reaching their greatest potential is the best reward of this work.
If you are in crisis or wish to discuss whether CMHA has the right service for you, call Here 24/7: 1-844-437-3247 (HERE 247).
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Follow the ‘Faces of CMHA’ series for a glimpse into the lives of the people who spend each day at the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington working to inspire and support people to achieve the quality of life they desire. Join our team, click here to view current employment opportunities at CMHA WW.