April 15, 2019 3:15 pm

Avalon Sexual Assault Centre unable to take new requests for counselling, wait list too long

Halifax's Avalon Sexual Assault Centre says it is unable to receive new requests for counselling for the first time in the 23 years it has offered this service.

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The Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax says it can no longer accommodate new requests for counselling because so many people have been seeking the service.

The centre, which has offered counselling services for 23 years, says it’s the first time it has had to take the drastic step.

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In a news release, the centre says the number of people looking for sexual assault trauma therapy has “grown steadily.” And while the centre has tried to address the growing need by restructuring, changing their service parameters and hiring more counsellors, the number of people seeking service has been more than the centre can handle.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia now offering free legal advice for sexual assault survivors

The centre notes there are people who have been waiting for counselling for more than two years. The caseload has been so heavy the centre is no longer able to give accurate estimated wait times.

“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. 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,” said executive director Jackie Stevens in a statement.

The centre plans to finish its current caseload and then assess the needs of those on the wait list so that they can estimate when new requests can be added to that list.

The centre says its board of directors will “explore opportunities for support, collaboration, and re-imagining service delivery models” in the meantime.

WATCH: Halifax sexual assault centre calls for funding changes (March 14, 2017)

Stevens says Avalon’s struggles are evident across the country, as the number of police-reported sexual assaults is on the rise. That’s why she’s pushing for long-term solutions.

“We are all making a difference. But we also see that we need to continue to work with funders and community partners to find longer-term solutions, to ensure all survivors of sexualized violence and abuse have access to therapeutic counselling and other specialized services,” she said.

Avalon will continue to provide medical follow-up and forensic evidence collection through the Avalon Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program. Their counsellor — who provides sexual assault information, support and referral — will also continue working.

Training and awareness programs and public awareness campaigns will continue as well.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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