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More nurses pairing with police for mental health calls across B.C.

Mobile Integrated Crisis Response Teams coming to Abbotsford, Port Coquitlam/Coquitlam, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Penticton, Vernon, Squamish, Prince Rupert and the Westshore.

People in a mental-health or substance-use crisis will have the support of experts as new mobile, integrated-response teams are coming to nine communities throughout the province.

To help people in crisis and to free up police resources to focus on crime, the province is expanding Mobile Integrated Crisis Response (MICR) Teams (also known as Car programs) to Abbotsford, Port Coquitlam/Coquitlam, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Penticton, Vernon, Squamish, Prince Rupert and the Westshore.

“When people are in crisis because of mental-health challenges, we want them met with compassion and appropriate care,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “We are expanding crisis-response teams across the province to ensure that at their most vulnerable time, people in distress in our communities receive a health-focused response and connections to the services and supports they need on their pathway to well-being.”

MICR Teams are specialized crisis-response teams that pair a police officer with a health-care professional to respond to mental-health calls made to the police. Teams provide on-site emotional and mental-health assessments, crisis intervention and referrals to appropriate services in the community. Built on partnerships between municipal police departments or local RCMP detachments and the regional health authorities, these teams help free up police resources to focus on crime.

“Our government is taking action on the biggest challenges we face to keep people and communities healthy and thriving,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “We have heard from many police departments and health authorities that currently run Mobile Integrated Crisis Response Teams that the programs are extremely helpful - and the demand is growing. Expanding the MICR Teams program will help connect more people in crisis with the appropriate supports and services they need.”

The province has committed $3 million to help fund their implementation throughout B.C. With communities now selected, health authorities and local police will begin planning together to recruit staff and put services in place as quickly as possible.

Expanding MICR Teams is part of the Province’s Safer Communities Action Plan, and supports the plan’s goal of creating safe, healthy communities for everyone. Enhancing supports for people living with mental-health and addiction challenges is an integral part of A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap for building a comprehensive system of mental-health and addiction care for British Columbians.

“Police are responding to an ever-increasing number of calls for service that have a nexus to mental-health-related concerns,” said Maureen Levy, Assistant Commissioner, Lower Mainland District Commander, RCMP. “This key partnership will enable us to work more collaboratively, effectively and side by side with our health-care professionals to directly support our vulnerable populations, who are facing a mental-health crisis. My motto is: ‘We are better when we work together, and everyone matters.’ “

Tina Baker, a registered psychiatric nurse with the Car 67 program, says the partnerships are beneficial to clients during crisis.

“We can give 100% of our care and attention to the client, knowing that police are there to keep us and clients safe. I am thrilled more communities will soon have this program.”

In B.C., one in five interactions with police involve someone with a mental-health disorder.

MICR Teams are currently operating in Kamloops, Kelowna, Prince George, Fort St. John, Richmond, Surrey, Vancouver, North Shore, Nanaimo and Victoria.

READ MORE: ‘Officers are getting exhausted’: Penticton RCMP dealing with medical crisis on the streets

READ MORE: Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP needs help with mental health calls


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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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