New Program: Extending our support with our Crisis Intervention Team (CIT)

If pressed to declare a single word that defines Chai Lifeline Canada, it would be support. We support children and families for whom illness is at the center of their lives. Our entire team – from our staff to our volunteers to our donors – is focused on doing all that we can to support families through times no one imagines. Our newest program, Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) extends our support to the community in the immediate aftermath of a sudden crisis, tragedy or traumatic event.

Over our 15 years, we have received calls from concerned family members, teachers, rabbis and organizations seeking support and it became clear that our community was in need of a crisis response team. After consulting with community leaders, professionals and various organizations, we have established CIT as a direct response to that need.

Our volunteer-driven team is trained by Victim Services of York Region – a program of the York Regional Police and O.P.P – and they participate in ongoing education together with Project Chai counterparts in the US. The team is comprised of a comprehensive and varied group of caring individuals that includes teachers, professionals, lay people, paramedics, rabbis and mental health professionals from the Jewish Community. Each team member has a vested interest in the wellbeing of our community and brings a unique perspective, skill set and experience to CIT.

Uri Kestenbaum, leads Toronto’s CIT team of 15. He is a teacher at Tannenbaum CHAT, a first responder for Hazalah and has done training in Israel with Magen David Adom. He has also trained as an EMT in the US and Canada. Uri has been responding to medical calls for the past 10 years and has experience in direct and immediate response.

We sat down with Uri to learn a bit more about the Crisis Intervention Team in Toronto, he’s the first point of contact when a call comes in. He explains that the first goal of CIT is to help people through the process of understanding that their initial responses are normal.

“A lot of what we’re taught to do is help them recognize that what they’re feeling, that what they’re experiencing is a new normal – whether it’s too much eating, too little eating, too much sleep, lack of sleep, too much crying, lack of crying – these responses are new and very normal for people who are experiencing trauma or grief.”

The overall intent is to help to restore a sense of stability and direction and it is important that people know that there is someone to reach out to if you are struggling in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event. There are people that are there and ready to help.

The support services of the Chai Lifeline’s Crisis Intervention Team is very specific and niche – the support is short-term and immediate. “We are not able to respond during an active event. That is 911.” Uri explains. “We are also not there for long-term service. We move people on to the next steps and refer relief resources.”

While we hope that you never need the support from our Crisis Intervention Team, we are ready to be there for our community when the call comes.

To activate CIT support, reach out via our hotline 1-800-556-6238 or by email [email protected] and our intake manager will be in touch to determine how we can best support.