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Penticton pushes for provincially funded mental health worker to ride with RCMP

Penticton’s top cop also would love to see the program
Penticton RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter presented data to city council in February that found his officers were going to more mental health calls than RCMP in bigger cities like Kelowna and Kamloops. (Screen shot)

Penticton city council has found some support for a provincially funded mental health professional to ride along with RCMP.

In the middle of a growing mental health crisis taking more and more resources from the RCMP, council wants the province to fund a “Car 40”-type program.

This program, used in Kamloops and Kelowna, pairs a mental health professional with a police officer to respond to calls for people suffering from mental health issues.

Last week, the Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA) unanimously supported council’s resolution requesting the province support an integrated Car Program with appropriate and sustainable funding.

The resolution could head to the Union of B.C. Municipalities where the motion could get in front of the provincial government.

In February, Penticton RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter said officers attend more mental health calls on a per-capita basis than Kelowna, Vernon and Kamloops.

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

Hunter himself had said that he was pushing for the program with Interior Health.

“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.

But there has been no response from Interior Health to expand the Car 40 program to Penticton.

In fact, the Western News has repeatedly reached out to Interior Health to ask them if they would expand the program to Penticton and have not received a response.

“That is over six mental health calls a day,” Hunter told council.”For example, last Tuesday or Wednesday, by 8 a.m., every single uniformed officer in this city was tied up in a call dealing with mental health. Those officers should be doing proactive policing and working on crimes,” he said.

The program aims to divert those with mental health issues from the criminal justice system to reduce the number of unnecessary hospital admissions and the impact on police resources.

READ MORE: Penticton council to consider call for provincially funded mental health worker and RCMP partner

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Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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