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Interior Health, Central Okanagan RCMP bolster crisis response partnership

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In response to the rising number of mental health and substance misuse related calls, Interior Health and RCMP in Central Okanagan have expanded their crisis response partnership, to better handle the mental health crisis in Kelowna and Kamloops.

“When people are in crisis because of mental illness or addiction challenges, we want them to be met with care,” said Minster of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson.

“Expanding the teams in Kamloops and Kelowna will support more people in distress and connect them to help and health care.”

The existing programs in Kelowna and Kamloops, the Police and Crisis Response Team (PACT) and Car 40 program also have a new name: the Integrated Crisis Response Team.

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Starting in early 2023, additional support staff will be brought in to help provide specialized crisis response service for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. The idea is that by pairing a specially-trained police officer and a nurse to these calls, they’re able to provide the care that is required.

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“Including assessment and intervention, help with admission to hospital, connection to other medical or social services, and other supports,” explained IH president and CEO, Susan Brown.

“This is the first step as we work together to enhance crisis response across our region. Interior Health and RCMP joint committee continue to meet and work together at the crisis response services and support across the region including those in other jurisdictions.”

The expansion of the two programs was a direct result of the steady rise in mental health calls in the Southeast District. In 2021, the district received over 17,000 calls for service, a 16-per cent rise since 2019.

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“The statistics demonstrate how important this work is, and I’m confident that our combined efforts will continue to make positive difference in the spirit of my vision, of a model that has a health clinician available to support a police officer, at every person in crisis call,” explained RCMP Chief Superintendent for the Southeast District, Brad Haugli.

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The IH/ RCMP Joint Committee says it will meet and work together, to determine if a similar approach could work in other communities in the region.

“Interior Health and the RCMP are committed to working together in finding solutions that support ‘persons in crisis,’” explained Haugli.

Interior Health has multiple outreach groups that work in conjunction with police partners on an as-needed basis, which include Treatment Support and Recovery (TSR), Assertive Community Treatment (ACT), and Substance Use Outreach.