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Elk Valley Critical Incident Response Team shutting down after 23 years of service

Non-profit provided mental health support to people who witnessed traumatic events
EVCIRT offered mental health supports to individuals involved in traumatic events, including police officers, first responders, firefighters and mine employees (Photo courtesy of Elk Valley RCMP)

A local non-profit that provided mental health services to people with high-stress occupations, has made the decision to shut down after 23 years of operation.

Elk Valley Critical Incident Response Team (EVCIRT) offered mental health support to police officers, first responders, firefighters, mine employees and other individuals who had witnessed traumatic events. The group’s outreach spanned the Elk Valley and extended as far as Kimberley, Fairmont and Pincher Creek, AB.

EVCIRT officially stopped operations in July, but only recently began to file notification of desire to dissolve.

Chairperson Brian Glover said the decision was made due to a decrease in the number of calls they had gotten in recent years, which he attributed to a rise in peer-based mental health services offered in the workplace.

Organizations that EVCIRT used to help have begun offering their own trauma support, which is often more specialized. Glover said he views this as a positive step forward.

“It’s more valuable when you can get your peers facilitating it,” he explained.

EVCIRT was founded in 2001 by members of Fernie Fire and Emergency Services. Volunteers provided round-the-clock service and were on the scene of avalanches, mining incidents, drownings, deaths by suicide, and vehicle and helicopter crashes. They helped witnesses process their grief and develop coping strategies, and were trained in suicide prevention and post-prevention.

Funding for the the team came from donations and Columbia Basin Trust Community Initiatives Program, and training was provided both locally and through the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. Fernie Fire and Emergency Services was very dedicated the cause, having answered calls for EVCIRT.

“I think it was a good run. A number of people have been helped over time. It was worthwhile overall,” said Glover.