Vancouver, BC – “I’ve been there too, I got through it, and so can you.” With those words, Erika Weikle heads out to meet another client on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Erika is a peer support worker with Vancouver Coastal Health. Her credentials include an 11-year struggle with mental health and substance use, including six years in institutions and hospitals. “Being a peer support worker brings lived experience to the care team. We bring a fresh perspective to what might be going on with a client,” says Erika.
The peer support program at Vancouver Coastal Health is set to undergo its largest expansion in more than a decade. Peers will be embedded in nine care teams on the Downtown Eastside.
The peers will be hired, managed and supported by RainCity Housing and Support Society. “In addition to their vision and stability, RainCity has a proven track record of being an innovative and collaborative partner. They also have peer employment embedded in every level of their organization,” says Andrew Day, Director and Program Lead for Primary Care, Vancouver Community, VCH.
“This program is a perfect example of how we are ensuring that supports are in place so British Columbians facing challenges with mental health and substance issue receive assistance,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “Thanks to the peer support program expansion, people facing these challenges will have the opportunity to learn from those who have lived through a similar experience.”
“RainCity Housing is pleased to be partnering with Vancouver Coastal Health to embed peers throughout VCH services in the DTES. We believe that including peers on healthcare teams will increase hope for recovery for both health care providers and patients. The peers staff will help marginalized people attach to their healthcare providers and develop the long term reciprocal relationships that ultimately improve health outcomes.” says Greg Richmond, Co-Executive Director, RainCity Housing.
“The role of the peer can help people see that no matter how hard it is now, things can get better and life doesn’t have to be so difficult forever,” says Erika Weikle. “Many clients in the Downtown Eastside may not have a healthy group of friends or supportive families. As a peer, I can make a connection quickly, because I may know what they’re going through.”
The expanded peer program follows extensive consultation with staff, physicians and clients. It supports the work of the Downtown Eastside Second Generation Health Strategy, which aims to improve access and strengthen connections to health care, while at the same time improving the quality of care for vulnerable people living in the community.
Vancouver Coastal Health 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
Since 1982, RainCity Housing has provided shelter and housing for thousands of people in the Lower Mainland. With a proven track record, a strong leadership team, and a clear vision for the future, RainCity Housing is a leader in finding workable, cost-effective solutions that ultimately benefit everyone in our community.
Public Affairs Officer
Vancouver Coastal Health