As staff struggle to provide service for an overwhelming number of calls from people seeking help, the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax is temporarily not adding new counselling cases to its wait list.
“We’re continuing to seek ways we can serve more people, but while we do that, we need to be able to assure those
who’ve been waiting that they’ll be seen,” said the centre’s executive director, Jackie Stevens, in a news release.
“Currently that means we can’t add people to the wait list, and that we’ll be directing all therapeutic counselling service to those already waiting.”
The centre will continue to give out information and referrals, as well as administer the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program, which does medical follow-up and collects forensic evidence.
However, the number of new calls for counselling is increasing faster than staff can keep up with. Some people on the wait list have been waiting for more than two years, and staff can’t even give accurate wait time estimates any more.
‘Longer-term solutions’ needed, says Stevens
Stevens said statistics across Canada show that people are coming forward to report sexual assaults in higher and higher numbers. She said this shows the need for Avalon’s services, but appealed to the public to find “longer-term solutions.”
This is the first time in 23 years the centre has had to close its waiting list. The centre said once the people it is helping right now have been served, it will examine the wait list to figure out when new cases can start to be added.