British Columbia

Nurses and police to respond to calls together under new Richmond program

Richmond RCMP say officers have seen an increase over the years in the number of calls related to mental health.

Similar projects are in place in Vancouver, Surrey and Kamloops

An unnamed RCMP officer who will be working with the Mental Health Car stands with Supt. William Ng of the Richmond RCMP. (Vancouver Coastal Health)

A new project in Richmond is pairing police officers with nurses to answer mental health related calls together. 

The program, called the Mental Health Car, was launched Thursday by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and Richmond RCMP.

A nurse and a specially trained officer will be dispatched to mental health crises in an unmarked vehicle to connect people with the most appropriate services, VCH said. The team will be available seven days a week for 12 hours a day. 

"The Mental Health Car for some can be the first contact for people who are in crisis," said Tiffany Akins with VCH. "They'll be able to provide direction, it'll make people more calm, and feel safe and secure."

Increase in calls

The project was launched in response to an ongoing increase in calls related to mental health, VCH said. 

"These types of calls can be pretty complex for an officer to respond to," Akins said, noting that the number of mental health related calls is expected to grow by more than 50 per cent this year, from 1,431 last year to an estimated 2,267 by the end of this year.

Four officers have been handpicked for the unit after going through a comprehensive training process, RCMP said. Two nurses have also been assigned to the program. 

Similar programs are in place in Vancouver, Surrey and Kamloops. 

Corrections

  • The photo caption in a previous version of this story incorrectly identified the police officer on the right. In fact, it is Supt. William Ng of the Richmond RCMP.
    Oct 11, 2019 6:21 PM PT

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