Penticton is finally getting the Car 40 program that will help with the mental health crisis happening in the city.
“After nearly two years of lobbying by council, we are pleased the provincial government has announced Car 40, which pairs an RCMP officer with a health care professional, will be arriving in Penticton,” said Mayor Julius Bloomfield in a release.
There are no details from Interior Health when the program will be implemented.
“This program will play an essential role in meeting our priority of a ‘Safe and Resilient’ community. The city, RCMP and other local agencies have long advocated for this service as a way to allow people in mental health crisis to be treated with a greater level of care and concern and connect them with the assistance they need.”
Kamloops, Kelowna and several other communities have had the Car 40 program as well as other programs that pair police with mental health experts.
In Kelowna and Kamloops, the program was extended this year but Penticton was at the time left out.
To help people in the crisis and to free up police resources to focus on crime, the province expanding the 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.
Penticton RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter, who is currently on medical leave, has long asked for the Car 40 program and said “it would be a game changer” if implemented.
Penticton police deal with twice the calls for mental health than Kelowna, Kamloops and Vernon, said Hunter.
Around 50 per cent of their calls for service each day are attending to people experiencing mental health issues or crisis.
While they do have some training, they are not mental health experts, Hunter added when he made a report to council at the end of 2022.
“I would love it, the members would love it. We are not trained to deal with these critical situations. Our training isn’t focused on mental health,” he said. He often has said members are getting exhausted.
Since then, the city has nearly doubled the number of bylaw officers, mainly Community Safety Officers who regularly interact with those residents who are unhoused, trying to connect them to services.
Meanwhile, several citizen-based rallies have been held in Penticton against the rising crime and social disorder.