Monday, 13 August 2018 11:04

Lethbridge Corridor Victims Services Unit available for all of southwest Alberta

Written by  By Heather Cameron
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For those who have experienced crime or tragedy, the Lethbridge Corridor Victims Services Unit is available to provide assistance.


“The unit is a non-profit organization made of up volunteers who work under the guidance and direction of the RCMP: providing support, information, and referral services to help victims (and their families) who have experienced crime or tragedy to cope with the feelings and the impact of crime or tragedy,” Adonus Artlett, Program Manager of the Victims Services Unit and Handler of Madison the VSU Dog, said.
When an incident happens, Artlett says that the unit provides comfort and reassurance either by phone or in person, either in the victim’s home or at the hospital. There are also follow up consultations afterwards to determine what further information or support is needed.
“Our role is to alleviate the impact of crime and/or tragedy on its victims,” Artlett said.
The Lethbridge Corridor Victims Services Unit (VSU) has been around since 1991 and was incorporated in 1995 in response to a need for victims assistance programs in nearby rural communities. VSU works with the RCMP Detachments in Coaldale, Lethbridge Rural, Milk River, Raymond and Picture Butte to serve the area.
“Our VSU unit serves rural areas and, during times of crisis, may be called by the RCMP to attend on-scene or to follow up with families via phone,” Artlett said.
The unit, Artlett says, receives referrals from the RCMP detachments within the service area and also refers clients to other community agencies that are able to provide services to meet the specific needs of individuals.  VSU is also part of the Domestic Violence Action Team and the Sexual Violence Action Committee and the unit partakes in discussions and initiatives to target these issues.
“Our VSU unit serves rural areas and, during times of crisis, may be called by the RCMP to attend on-scene or to follow up with families via phone,” Artlett said. “VSU has the ability to attend each detachment within our service area to meet with victims and their families should our services be required.”
VSU provides 24-hour assistance that is delivered by responding to crisis calls received by the RCMP. The community can also contact the On-Call Advocate 24-7 at 403-393-8107.
“A large amount of VSU time is spent on files that are going through the criminal justice system,” Artlett said.  “In cases where court appearance is necessary, we contact the witness/victim to offer information on court procedures, upcoming court dates, court preparation, and can accompany the victim to court.”
Advocates, Artlett says, are dedicated front-line volunteers who have received specialized training to assist victims on-scene, in the follow-up of a crime or tragedy, and during the criminal justice process. Advocates have training in areas including victim rights, crisis intervention, communication, police procedure, court orientation, and the Solicitor General and Public Security Programs.
“Anybody who has a genuine desire to help others in a time of crisis and who have strong communication skills, including the need to maintain confidentiality can apply to be a VSU Advocate at 403-329-5042 or  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ,” Artlett said.
The process of becoming an advocate involves getting an application from the Program Manager, completely filling it out, and submitting it.  After the fully completed application is returned, applicants are then interviewed by the Program Manager. If the interview is successful, applicants will then have to undergo a criminal record check and extensive security clearance process.  Applicants who make it through the clearance process will then have to complete a 75 hour online training created by the Solicitor General’s office.
“The work Advocates do is often referred to "silent support",” Artlett said. “VSU prides themselves in quietly supporting the communities. However, it is important for every citizen to know Lethbridge Corridor VSU exists so everyone can access support and services.”
One of the Advocates in the Victims Services Unit is Madison, a yellow Labrador who is a highly trained, full public access, Service Dog, from the Alberta Dogs with Wings Program. Madison is also registered with the International Guide Dog Association of Canada and her job s to help those who are experiencing a vast array of emotions to assist in grounding emotions.
“Madison has affectionately become known as "The Mama Dog" for her loving nature,” Artlett said. “Words cannot describe Madison but everyone who touches her seems to have their stress alleviated.”
Artlett says that Lethbridge Corridor Victims Unit is very much like a family and is dedicated to the community.
“Though we all come from different educational and experiential backgrounds, we all bring something unique to the team,” Artlett said. “We depend on each other for emotional support as this work, though fulfilling, can be emotional and we want to ensure that everyone is taking care of themselves mentally and physically.”
The unit has had information booths at community events such as Coaldale’s Settler Days, Canada Day at Henderson Park, the Lethbridge Farmer’s Market, Lethbridge Family Fest, Lethbridge Aggie Days, and Magrath’s Chautauqua Fest.  The unit also plans to attend events including Milk River’s Bonanza Days, Coalhurst’s Miner Days, and Nobleford’s Centennial Heritage Day, and Whoop Up Days. As a result of these information booths, Artlett says that communities are now more aware of the unit’s presence and services. 
“For many of our volunteers, this is a way of them giving back to the community and engaging with people in a compassionate manner,” Artlett said.

To request that Madison meets a victim, attends a court preparation meeting, attends a trial, or visits your organization, or if you want to volunteer with Lethbridge Corridor VSU, contact Adonus Arlett at 403-635-1166 or email her at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

For more information about the Lethbridge Corridor Victims Unit, visit www.vsleth.ca.

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