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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – A local non-profit is requesting funding to acquire mobile devices for high risk domestic violence victims.

The local Interagency Case Assessment Team (ICAT) is seeking $6,600 from the BC Hydro Go Fund to acquire 10 Living Well Companion Devices and sent a letter to city council requesting support.

The ICAT is made up of several stakeholders who share relevant information on high risk domestic violence cases and create case plans to manage and mitigate risk.

The Living Well Companion Device can be worn around a person’s neck or placed in a purse and has a button that can be pressed to connect the user to a third party operator in case of an emergency.

ICAT and Telus Health piloted a project in May 2020, providing a few devices to domestic violence victims in Fort St. John. Aaron Hutchinson, with ICAT, said the organization received positive feedback.

“For example, one of the victims appreciated that Telus contacted her chosen supports when they couldn’t reach her to advise that her battery power for the device was low—she really appreciated this personalized level of service,” reads Hutchinson’s letter to council.

The device was originally designed for senior citizens and is GPS enabled. When the button is pressed, the operator will have access to the individual’s location and chosen supports.  The call will then be recorded and accessible to the police as evidence, said Hutchinson.

The operator will also have detailed dispatch instructions on the client’s account, such as to call emergency services immediately.

“In sum, the Living Well Companion Device will afford a victim protection not only in her residence, but whilst she is shopping in town or travelling to another community so long as there is cell service,” said Hutchinson in the letter.

The third party operators have staff who speak English, French, Punjabi, Cantonese and Mandarin. The device is also available on Apple watches.

Telus also confirmed that the devices would work in Indigenous communities, including Halfway River, Blue Berry and Doig River First Nations.

Originally, Hutchinson looked into having panic alarms installed into victims’ homes but found a limitation as the user wouldn’t have protection if they left the location where the alarm was installed.

ICAT is chaired by Corporal Steven Francoeur from the Fort St. John RCMP and co-chaired by Detty James from Community Bridge.

On Monday, council requested Hutchinson resend his letter directly to the mayor’s office with the non-profits letterhead in order to receive a letter of support. Hutchinson, a probation officer, sent his request for support letter with a provincial letterhead, which is why council asked for him to resend the letter.

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