VANCOUVER – The North Shore's most vulnerable residents are getting better access to mental health support thanks to a new partnership between Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), North Vancouver RCMP, and West Vancouver Police Department (WVPD).
Named "Car 22", the pilot program is aimed at assisting marginalized and vulnerable populations in the community who face mental health challenges. Staffed by officers from WVPD and RCMP, some of whom are also part of the Integrated First Nations Unit (IFNU), Car 22 pairs officers with a VCH mental health care professional, who rides with them during the patrol shift.
"People in crisis need urgent mental health support," said Sheila Malcolmson, BC Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. "The Car 22 program on the North Shore helps meet people where they are, with the vital supports they need." The addition of on-scene health professionals to police response places a vital, immediate link to healthcare on the actual doorstep of those in need.
"This team allows North Van RCMP officers to provide proactive support side-by-side with health care professionals, using prevention measures, and as critical response," said Superintendent Will Yee, officer in charge of North Vancouver RCMP. "It's another step forward in providing wrap-around services for the people who need them the most, not only when they find themselves in the midst of a mental health crisis, but also as a means of intervening before one happens." Early intervention also reduces the need for frontline patrol response, and prevents unnecessary hospital admissions.
"To have a mental health care professional formally partnered with police officers on the North Shore for mental health calls will improve care for the most vulnerable in our community," said Ira Roness, Director of Mental Health and Substance Use (MHSU) North Shore for Vancouver Coastal Health. "VCH continues to work with our partners to create a comprehensive system of mental health and substance-use care to ensure those who need it have access to treatment."
Six days a week, Car 22 will respond to requests from patrol officers and other medical professionals for mental health assistance. "We are extremely excited to have this pilot project up and running," said Constable Kevin Goodmurphy, West Vancouver Police. "We will now be in a better position to provide mental health support to those who need it most."
Car 22 is funded by VCH through the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and is expected to run until the spring of 2022, with the potential of permanent funding following a successful pilot launch.