Two new workers for schizophrenia support in Cowichan Valley

The Cowichan region has gained two workers to help the BC Schizophrenia Society with its work here.

The Cowichan region has gained two workers to help the BC Schizophrenia Society with its work here.

According to Cindy Charleyboy, provincial programs and services manager for the BCSS, these hirings have been part of a broad-ranging attempt by the provincial government to fill gaps in services provided to families.

The Ministry of Health has recently announced that it will spend $3 million dollars across B.C. to move this towards the front burner.

There will be no actual storefront office opened in the Valley because the money is being used to provide programs and staff will work out of their homes, according to Charleyboy.

“Our work is all based on outreach. Our people work out of their homes.

We will go meet them where they’re at. We will talk to family members, tell them about services and resources and help them any way we can.

“We have hired new educators across the province to fill in the gaps. When we talk about the Island region, we have hired four people: two for the Cowichan, and one each for the Port Hardy and Port Alberni regions. Between those we have three educators and a manager/educator.

“We have a whole new region in the Interior that is being covered also, with five new educators. We’ve added a half-time educator in the Fraser area and a new program being developed in the North. We’ve really strategically planned how this $3 million is going to be spent over the next five years,” she said.

A discussion with the Ministry of Health highlighted the gaps, the areas that were not being served and as the BCSS has been around for 35 years and “stands strong for our programs and our support for families” and “because we’re really good at doing, it wasn’t that much of a push, it was more: here we are and what are we going to do?” she continued.

“It seemed to me the right thing to do to fill in those gaps for families to make sure we don’t miss anyone.”

The BCSS keeps its eyes open.

“We also look at the coroners’ reports across the province to find out what services were missing and how could we have, maybe, changed the fate of some of these families. It’s a really big picture and we have been advocating and using all opportunities that we can to fight for what families deserve, which is to be supported.”

Getting resources to  people who need them is what it’s all about, according to Charleyboy.

“People who have these resources get better and better at advocating,” she said.

There are three programs on offer in the Valley.

“We have our Strengthening Families Together program. It’s a 10-session, 30-hour education program for loved ones who have mental illness.

“We’re also offering the Partnership Program. It’s based on three presenters: a family member, a person with experience who’s in recovery, and a clinical person. It shows the partnership. You can give these presentations anywhere. BCSS has been invited into industry, into schools, into PAC meetings, into government meetings, First Nations communities, universities, anywhere. We will go and do the Partnership presentations because it really gives people an understanding, not only of the partnership but also of how our loved ones have fostered this partnership. We see the way this rolls. There’s a video, a person gets to tell their story. It really offers us hope and that’s what we need as families.”

Support at the local level really matters, she said.

“When we’re in the trenches with our own family member, in those days of despair, we need to know there’s something coming that’s good.”

The other program is a monthly support group. People can find out about those by contacting Danita Senf at

“All these programs are being offered through these new positions because the Ministry of Health funded positions are geared towards these gaps. That’s the $3 million,” Charleyboy said.

On top of that, BCSS is also piloting a Strengthening Families Together: First Nations project right across the province.

“We’re in year three and it will be completed at the end of this summer. However, we got extra funding to bring some training to the Cowichan last summer so we trained new facilitators, who started delivery of that program with Session One last night (Jan. 24) at Cowichan Tribes. It will be a 10-session program,” she said.

Effort is being made to ensure programs for First Nations people are presented  in a culturally sensitive manner.

Anyone who wants to contact the BCSS in the Cowichan region, email either or, or call Danita Senf at 1-888-888-0029 and be put through free of charge.

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