The West Shore RCMP will be joining a $3 million program that partners police officers with healthcare workers while responding to mental health calls.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the program’s aim is to connect people in crisis to the appropriate services in their community and take pressure off stretched police resources.
The West Shore is one of nine latest communities to add a Mobile Crisis Response Team to their force. New teams are being funded for Abbotsford, Port Coquitlam/Coquitlam, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Penticton, Vernon, Squamish, and Prince Rupert.
During a mental health call, clinicians can triage the individual experiencing a crisis and help police determine whether or not they need to be apprehended under the mental health act.
Inspector Stephen Rose says this will lighten the workload for police officers responding to mental health calls.
“The need for this unit has certainly grown on the West Shore over the past five years as we’ve seen a 39% increase in calls related to mental health-related matters,” said Inspector Stephen Rose, West Shore RCMP
Rose, who is the officer in charge of operations, told reporters at a press conference that during that same time period, officers averaged over two hours waiting for individuals to be triaged at hospitals.
“Our hope is that this triage can happen in and at home with the information available made by the clinician to the police officer, to hopefully divert the need for that person to be apprehended.
Three police officers will be apart of the unit and will be partnered with Island Health workers seven days a week from 10am to 10pm, but that could change in the future depending on the need.
When it comes to privacy, Rose says that medical information won’t be made available to officers and that only health care workers have access to that, adding that a memorandum of understanding will be signed between the two groups.
Some information will be verbally shared to the responding officer if the clinician sees it fit while out on a call, such as a prior diagnosis or if the individual is taking medication. However, the RCMP say that won’t be reflected inside police databases or reports.
Similar programs already exist in 10 B.C. communities including Kamloops, Victoria, Surrey and Vancouver.
The government says one in five interactions with police in B.C. involve someone with a mental-health disorder.
Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Jennifer Whiteside did not provide a specific timeline for when the new programs would be running, but says she anticipates them in “fairly short order.”
At the press conference, Rose told reporters that they are currently in training process of officers and finishing up recruitment of health care workers. He hopes to have the program ready by early fall.
With files from the Canadian Press