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Peer Navigator Program to change how Vancouver’s health care system is navigated

Vancouver, BC – Navigating the health care system while suffering from mental illness, substance use or an addiction can be confusing and overwhelming. But a new program offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Vancouver-Fraser Branch (CMHA-VF) and funded by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) aims to alleviate this stress by connecting individuals with Peer Navigators who have had similar struggles.
The Peer Navigator Program leverages the expertise of individuals who have lived experience with mental illness, substance use or addiction and who understand the social support and health services available in Vancouver. Peer Navigators provide guidance while working with program participants to access social services such as income assistance, legal aid, housing and tenancy, and health-related services.
‘Jaimie,’ one of the Peer Navigators, suffered from depression since high school and ultimately had a breakdown that led to hospitalization. This experience eventually led him to work in the mental health field. Now, Jaimie helps his program participants by leading through example. “We are proof to our participants that they, too, can make it through,” he says. “Coming from the very bottom to now having a great job, friends and a place in the community, I can show others that recovery is a reality.”
In addition to improving quality of life and progress in recovery, the new service also aims to provide greater access to a wider range of Vancouver residents including youth, young adults and those with substance use problems and addictions. The program runs through the CMHA Vancouver-Fraser Branch and is funded by VCH. 
“CMHA came to the table with an exciting program that was more client-centred and recovery-oriented,” says Andrew MacFarlane, director of mental health and addiction at VCH. “This will not only improve the quality of life of our program participants, but also their progress in recovery.”
Michael Anhorn, Executive Director of CMHA-VF adds, “CMHA has a long-standing history of delivering both evidence-based and promising-practice programming that is client-centred,” he says. “The Peer Navigator Program gradually shifts the level of power back to the participant in order to build his or her ability to access the supports and services that are required to meet his or her own needs. It’s all about empowering the individual.”
Peer Navigators are positioned within community agencies and services that provide mental health and substance use services.  The locations currently include MPA Society, Kettle Friendship Society,  and VCH’s Vancouver Adult Mental Health Intake. Program participants are accepted through referrals, either written or verbal.
For more information on the Peer Navigator Program,  visit the CMHA-VF website at:
About the Canadian Mental Health Association, Vancouver-Fraser Branch
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is one of Canada's most established national mental health charities. Our vision is mentally healthy people in a healthy society. As the nation-wide leader and champion for mental health, CMHA helps people access the community resources they need to build resilience and support recovery from mental illness or addiction. We do this by building capacity, influencing policy, providing services and developing resources. The Vancouver-Fraser Branch was founding in 2015 through an amalgamation of the Delta, Simon Fraser and Vancouver-Burnaby Branches.  Together they have been serving the Metro Vancouver area since 1958.  There are 14 branches and one provincial office of the CMHA in BC.  Together we promote mental health for all and support the resilience and recovery of people experiencing mental illness or addiction. To learn more visit
About Vancouver Coastal Health
VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.4 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.


Leanne MacLeod
Community Outreach and Education Team Leader
Canadian Mental Health Association, Vancouver-Fraser Branch
Phone: 604-516-8080 ext 324
Viola Kaminski
Public Affairs Officer                                      
Vancouver Coastal Health
Phone: 604-708-5338
SOURCE: Peer Navigator Program to change how Vancouver’s health care system is navigated ( )
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