Article courtesy of the Manitoulin Expositor, read the full article here
LITTLE CURRENT—Manitoulin North Shore Victim Services (MNSVS) found a new home in the 54 Boosneck Road headquarters building of the Manitoulin OPP Detachment when it opened in 2020, but not all that many people know where MNSVS is located or even what the organization does. MNSVS’s new executive director Amy Collins aims to change all that.
Ms. Collins took over the role of executive director in May and comes to the job following a 10-year career in social services—most recently with Manitoulin Family Resource’s Haven House women’s shelter. Before that, Ms. Collins worked for the Northeastern Ontario Elizabeth Fry Society for five years.
“It was the executive director at the Elizabeth Fry Society that supported I take this opportunity for growth,” she said. Although she currently lives in Espanola, Ms. Collins says that she “loves the Island” and is delighted to be able to work here.
She has taken on a significant role. The MNSVS catchment area extends from Waldon to Nairn Centre, the North Shore and all of Manitoulin Island, she explains. “There is about 19,000 people during the winter, a number that expands to include about 50,000 in the summer including tourists.”
The landscape of the region is changing and so too is MNSVS as it responds to many of those changes. “We still do crisis intervention,” she assures The Expositor. With the increase in drug addiction and the accompanying mental health crisis some of those challenges now being faced by the organization have greatly expanded—especially given the need for volunteer training.
And it is in its volunteers that MNSVS finds its greatest strength, notes Ms. Collins. “We have three staff,” she said. “Myself, Jessica our victim support specialist and Jacqueline, our program coordinator.” The rest are volunteers, people coming from every community in the region. Which is important given the challenges presented by low funding relative to the size of the need.
“We are currently in the middle of a volunteer recruitment drive,” said Ms. Collins. Her response as to why someone would want to volunteer doesn’t miss a beat. “If you care about your neighbour and have a sense of belonging to your community,” she offers. “You can make a valuable and important contribution to community wellbeing and develop your own people skills.”
“A lot of people don’t know about the information and services that are out there,” continues Ms. Collins. In addition to stepping in to support people in the midst of crisis, whether through crime, accident or untimely death or injury, MNSVS also does follow-up.
One of the recent projects taken under the MNSVS wing is Project Lifesaver, a program wherein those suffering from the ravages of dementia and their families are provided with a measure of security. Project Lifesaver uses technology to assist in the search and rescue efforts for those who wander and get lost. Project Lifesaver has been proven to significantly reduce the search time for police–and that timely response can prevent loved ones from experiencing harm.
Under Project Lifesaver, those who are at high risk of getting lost receive a bracelet transmitter, with a unique frequency. When the person wanders, a locator housed with local police services is used to find that unique frequency. The bracelet transmitter that the person living with dementia wears requires daily checks and maintenance to ensure it is always working. Participants must: have a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of dementia or a related disorder; be at high risk for wandering; have daily contact with a care partner or family member; and be restricted from operating a motor vehicle.
Ms. Collins explains that in its core function, MNSVS provides crisis intervention services to victims of crime and tragic circumstances after an incident 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the request of the police. MNSVS also provides services at the request of other community agencies, medical services, and by self-referral during their office hours (Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, excluding holidays.)
In addition to on-site crisis intervention, other services offered through the Victim Crisis Assistance Ontario (VCAO) program include: safety planning for all eligible victims of crime; referrals to appropriate community supports and services; needs assessments and customized service plans; enhanced support for vulnerable victims; and referrals to community agencies.
To be eligible, victims need to reside within the Manitoulin-Northshore region covered by MNSVS (those living outside the region are advised to seek service contacts online at ovss.findhelp.ca or to contact the Victim Support line toll-free at 1-888-579-2888.
Those ineligible are victims under the influence of drugs or alcohol; those simply seeking a form of transportation or if the call is otherwise deemed to be unsafe for the volunteer workers to attend.
The Victim Quick Response Program (VQRP+) seeks to provide timely assistance to eligible victims of the most violent crime. Under the VQRP+, short-term financial support is provided toward essential expenses for victims, their immediate family members and witnesses in the immediate aftermath of a violent crime to help reduce the impact of the crime, enhance safety and meet immediate practical needs that are a result of the crime.
VQRP+ is available to individuals who have no other financial means (for example private insurance) and where there is no publicly funded program available. Eligible applicants can access supports for critical needs such as: emergency home safety expenses (such as window repair and lock changes); practical assistance expenses (such as basic necessities, clothing, meals/groceries); travel and related expenses to shelters or safe accommodations; crime scene clean-up (such as the removal of hate-crime graffiti); short-term counselling services; supports required for serious injuries; basic funeral expenses and other financial support for families of homicide victims; and cellular phones for eligible victims.
Similar to the Project Lifesaver program is the Mobile Tracking System (MTS). MTS is a GPS tracking device that is provided to individuals at high risk of violence. The program is designed to assist in the prevention of domestic violence and criminal harassment and in the protection of their victims. This is a personal alarm for persons identified at high risk of experiencing violence. Given that the MTS is a short-term program, all recipients actively work on other safety measures with the GPS portion acting as only one component of a larger safety plan.
Tall orders for a largely volunteer program, but ones that can make a real and meaningful difference in people’s lives.
Manitoulin Northshore Victim Services is a part of the Ontario Network of Victim Services Providers, and provides services within the Manitoulin-Northshore region. This includes all of Manitoulin Island and the Northshore from Walford/Sagamok to Nairn Centre, including Espanola, Birch Island and all parts in between.
To become part of the MNSVS family of volunteers contact find an online form at mnvictimservices.ca/support-us. To financially contribute to the cause, simply go to canadahelps.org and search for Manitoulin Northshore Victim Services.