From left: Lachlan Gustafson-Thomas, Patricia Rawson, Angela McNulty-Buell, Heather Forbes and Robertina Saavedra from the Bridges for Women Society standing alongside Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity Grace Lore. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)

From left: Lachlan Gustafson-Thomas, Patricia Rawson, Angela McNulty-Buell, Heather Forbes and Robertina Saavedra from the Bridges for Women Society standing alongside Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity Grace Lore. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)

Funding boost for Victoria organization will bolster mental health supports for B.C. women

Funding will help provide women across the province with trauma counselling, referral supports

The Bridges for Women Society in Victoria will receive $100,000 in provincial funding to expand mental health support for women affected by trauma and violence.

The grant from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions is on top of the $20 million in joint federal-provincial funding, announced on Monday (Aug. 22), to support low and zero-cost community counselling programs throughout B.C. and to increase access to mental health and supportive counselling for adults.

It also builds on the $50,000 the B.C. government provided the charity last year to support trauma-informed counselling services for those who identify as part of the women’s community – including people who identify as transgender, non-binary or two-spirit.

“For us to be able to have the funding and the different streams available, means that what barriers do exist for people to access our services, can be lessened,” Heather Forbes, Bridges director of development, told Black Press Media. “So things like this funding, where we’re able to offer more than 10 sessions to someone who needs more than 10 sessions or able to offer services to someone who isn’t ready for the program, is really important.”

The society offers healing, education and employment programs for women not just in Greater Victoria, but all over Vancouver Island and the province, who’ve experienced trauma, violence or abuse – past or current. Services provided through the organization are trauma-informed and aim to meet each individual where they are in their life without judgement or expectation.

A new six-month pre-employment program is set to start Sept. 14, while the Indigenous women’s bridging program beings Sept. 24. An additional mentorship program, where program graduates are paired with a community mentor, is also anticipated to begin sometime this fall.

“There’s a whole arc of people’s experiences and needs. And so Bridges is essential in helping women work through their trauma, being ready for employment and having stability in a number of different ways,” Grace Lore, MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill and parliamentary secretary for gender equity, told Black Press Media.

“That’s what this funding from government is about. We recognize the need to support those with trauma and to support women who’ve experienced intimate partner violence on their healing and independence journey. It’s a recognition of the steps we can take now.”

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of a crime and requires assistance, call or text VictimLinkBC at 1-800-563-0808, or email VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca.

READ MORE: B.C. mom uses ribbons to honour late son, shed light on mental illness



austin.westphal@saanichnews.com

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