Leah Sinal, is the community navigator for the Canadian Mental Health Association’s South Cariboo branch. Sinal works with members of the South Cariboo to support, assist and connect them to a variety of services offered municipally, provincially or federally. Millar Hill photo.

Community Navigator program to be more accessible for rural South Cariboo residents

‘This really is something that is needed in the community’

Accessing services is becoming easier for South Cariboo residents, thanks to the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Community Navigator program which will be bringing their services to the South Cariboo’s smaller centres.

The role of a Community Navigator is to assist people needing help or support with accessing services they require – locally, provincially or federally. A navigator provides a range of information according to individual needs and circumstances.

A community navigator was first introduced to the South Cariboo during the month of May in 2018.

“The executive director, Susann Collins, identified a gap in care,” said Leah Sinal, community navigator for the CMHA South Cariboo branch. “This service wasn’t being provided in town for anyone and she decided to fill that gap and create this position. It’s a unique position for CMHA, I don’t just work with people who have mental health or addiction issues, I work with everybody.”

There is a range of services a navigator can assist with such as medical care, income or food security, counselling, mental health and addiction services, transportation and more.

“To start, I will assess their (the client) needs and kind of meet them wherever they are at,” said Sinal. “I will then adequately connect them to those services that they are looking for. We try to meet their basic needs first and then beyond if needed.”

Sinal said government systems can often be complicated for individuals trying to access them. Beyond that, individuals may not have the basic necessities to access them like a computer, email or transportation – all can be a barrier.

“I think it’s good for people to have someone walk beside them, get to know them and help navigate the available resources,” said Sinal. “It’s not meant to be, ‘here’s a list of services’, no, I am that person who tracks those services down and we do it together.”

Since its launch, Sinal has worked with more than 80 individuals in the community to help them access acquired services. Generally, Sinal will spend an hour with a client. She said every appointment is different from the other. After the 2017 wildfires and most-recent mill closures, there has been a focus on aftermath support.

“There are people who are in need of this kind of support and it’s being utilized,” said Sinal. “This really is something that is needed in the community.”

Currently, there are five community navigators throughout the province. The South Cariboo is one of those five communities to have this program. Sinal said the association recently decided to mobilize the community navigator program.

Over the next few months, Sinal will be bringing the community navigator program to Lac la Hache, Forest Grove and 70 Mile House.

The program will be available at the Cariboo Pioneer Centre in Lac la Hache from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 12, Oct. 10, Nov. 8 and Dec. 12.

The free service will be available for Forest Grove residents at the Community Hall from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 30, Oct. 28 and Nov. 25.

For 70 Mile House, Sinal will be at the Seventy Mile Access Centre for residents to access the services from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 10, Oct. 8, Nov. 12 and Dec. 9.

The Community Navigator program is free to anyone living in the South Cariboo Region. It is a confidential service that can be accessed by oneself, a friend or family referral, Interior Health or a medical clinic. It can be done over the phone or in-person at the CMHA South Cariboo branch.

“The South Cariboo is a hard-working, resilient community but we are here to support if needed,” said Sinal.

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