Life skills workers lend an important helping hand

December 9, 2021

Charlotte is proud of her mixed heritage – her ancestors are Cree and Shuswap, as well as Japanese and Irish. As someone who is homeless herself, she is a fiery advocate for people without homes living in Kamloops. She is also passionate about her Indigenous culture and participates in traditional ceremonies with singing and dancing.

As fiercely independent as Charlotte is, she also has chronic health conditions including depression, social anxiety and HIV, and her journey has not been easy. 

That’s why her relationship with Tamyla Laing, a Life Skills Worker from Kamloops, is so important. Charlotte says she can’t imagine where she’d be without Tamyla, with whom she has worked for about three years as part of Interior Health’s Intensive Case Management team.

“Tamyla has given me hope when I had none. She’s given me strength when I had none. She always makes me accountable, which is great. She is a remarkable worker. Really she is phenomenal,” Charlotte says. 

Tamyla is quick to interject: “It’s Charlotte who has done all the work. It really is all about Charlotte and her commitment to recovery.”

Life skills workers play a unique role in the mental health and substance use care continuum. They aren’t social workers, clinicians or counsellors. Rather, they work with individuals on developing day-to-day skills such as obtaining identification, opening bank accounts, doing taxes, and finding stable housing, food and clothing. They support people in managing interpersonal relationships, and in taking care of important medical and dental needs. For example, Tamyla will attend appointments with Charlotte to help her manage complex information and schedules related to her HIV treatment. 

“Life skills workers often have a window into people’s lives in a way that other health-care workers don’t, and have the privilege of witnessing both the day-to-day struggles as well as growth and successes of the people they serve,” says Jessica Mensinger, manager of mental health and substance use services in Kamloops. 

In addition, they provide harm reduction, support in accessing Opioid Agonist Treatment medications for opioid use disorder, and wound care. They do wellness checks and, when people are struggling, they reach out to help.

“Tamyla comes to me, which is remarkable. Not a lot of professionals leave their office,” Charlotte says. 

To learn more, check out Interior Health's substance use services
 

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