British Columbia

Advocates call for widening program that pairs police officers with mental-health experts

Advocates in B.C.’s Interior are calling on local health authorities to support the expansion of programs that pair mental health experts with RCMP officers to attend to mental health related calls. 

RCMP officers aren't necessarily needed during mental health crises, mother says

Several programs throughout B.C. pair an RCMP officer with a mental health worker to attend to mental health crises. (Rafferty Baker / CBC)

Advocates in B.C.'s Interior are calling for the expansion of programs that pair mental health experts with RCMP officers to attend mental health related calls. 

Kamloops, B.C., mother Bonnie McBride said her family recently called the RCMP for assistance with her 10-year-old daughter, who has been diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, out of concern she was unsafe and may self harm.

When the RCMP arrived, they loaded their daughter into the back of an RCMP car and took her to the hospital.

McBride believes that if a mental health professional had been with the RCMP officers, they could have better deescalated the situation and saved her daughter the trauma of being put in a cruiser.

"We didn't necessarily need the RCMP there at all," she told CBC's Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce. 

McBride and her husband wrote a letter to Interior Health in support of expanding the Car 40 program, which was launched in 2013 and partners an RCMP officer with a mental health nurse to respond to crisis situations. 

Interior Health hasn't responded to McBride, but the health authority told CBC News it is committed to working with police on effective solutions for people who require urgent mental health care.

"Meetings scheduled in the coming weeks will provide an opportunity to review what is already in place and what may be needed to support the largest number of people in need of mental health support," an Interior Health statement said. 

Other calls

Calls to expand RCMP and mental health worker partnerships have been ongoing; earlier this year, another Kamloops mother launched a petition to expand Car 40 in Kamloops following her husband's suicide. 

RCMP in Kelowna have been advocating for a second team to be added to their PACT team, which is similar to the Car 40 program.

A discussion about expanding a similar program in Prince George is moving forward as a result of city councillor Kyle Sampson's push to make it more available and accessible.

"We have a program that's been piloted essentially for the last five years and it's improved the quality of service that we are getting out to our residents tenfold, and so now that we've seen that success, I think it's time to start looking at that opportunity to expand it and just continue to bring our residents better service," Sampson said.

Prince George's program, Car 60, operates from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily, but Sampson wants to have mental health experts staffed 24 hours a day, so that they're available any time someone is impacted by a mental health crisis.

With files from Daybreak North and Daybreak Kamloops