British Columbia

Kelowna RCMP team up with psychiatric nurse for mental health calls

The goal of the newly formed Police and Crisis Team (PACT) is to connect people in crisis with appropriate services and keep them out of jail or the emergency department.

PACT team will be working eight hours a day, five days a week

Kelowna's new Police and Crisis Team hit the streets on March 27, 2017 to deal with mental health and substance use calls. (Interior Health)

The Kelowna RCMP and Interior Health have paired a psychiatric nurse and a specially trained police officer to respond to mental health and substance use calls.

The goal of the newly formed Police and Crisis Team (PACT) is to connect people in crisis with appropriate services and keep them out of jail or the emergency department.

"So, take them to a place where they can actually begin to access treatment for their psychiatric condition and not just enforcement from the RCMP," said Interior Health's mental health and substance use services administrator, John Yarschenko, to Radio West host Audrey McKinnon.

Hitting the streets

The PACT team began patrolling the streets on March 27 and will be working eight hours a day, five days a week, said Yarshenko.

Interior Health is providing and paying for the psychiatric nurse while Kelowna RCMP are providing and paying for the police officer, who formerly worked with the Downtown Enforcement Team and has received special training for his new assignment.

Kelowna's program is based on the successful Car 40 program piloted in Kamloops.

Yarschenko admitted other communities have been asking for a similar service but said it's expensive to provide and communities need to have a high enough volume of mental health and substance use cases to make it viable.

Program only works in big communities

"We want to make sure we're placing it in the communities where we can actually leverage the outcomes from this to provide more service, so we feel like if there's enough people that are coming to the emergency department who can be helped by this service, we're actually creating increased access to the broader healthcare continuum," he said.

"That's not true in every community. It has to be of a certain size."

The head of the Kelowna RCMP, Supt. Brent Mundle, said in a statement that "police recognize the value of taking the time to talk with the person in distress, to ask the right questions and to listen."

"Combined with the expertise of a mental health nurse, it is anticipated this new PACT program will provide an enhanced service to people in distress and, ultimately, offer them a high degree of patience, care and compassion."

With files from Radio West


To hear the full interview listen to audio labelled: New Police and Crisis Team for Kelowna

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