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Taking it to the street: new integrated crisis response model employed in Nelson

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
February 12th, 2024

The city’s street police presence will employ a new integrated crisis response model to help improve responses to mental health calls.

The new initiative — between  Interior Health (IH), rural Nelson RCMP and the Nelson Police Department (NPD) — has only been established for a few weeks, but it is expected to deliver a “high-level of both mental health care and safety when officers, partnered with a mental health clinician, respond to mental health calls,” said NPD Inspector Kris Rice.

The city’s police force have already seen the benefit of having a mental health clinician partnered with police in responding to calls involving persons having a mental health crisis and substance use-related crises, Rice explained.

“This collaboration has shown to improve care to people in crisis by working together as a team to assess and manage the situation and deciding on the most appropriate action, which may include referrals for community-based mental health follow-up or emergency intervention,” he said. “This builds efficiency for our officers while also ensuring high-level medical intervention and care for people experiencing mental health crisis.”

The new community-based supports for policing include four newly hired outreach liaison clinicians in Nelson, Cranbrook, Williams Lake and Trail. Teams in all four communities will be working together on training, reporting and program evaluation to ensure consistency across the region.

The model at the NPD is a shared model between NPD, rural Nelson RCMP and IH, said Rice. It is not, however, a “Car 87” model other municipal police departments and some larger RCMP detachments have where an officer and a clinician are partnered full-time. Instead, there is only one clinician at this time working eight hours per day, five days per week, providing service to two police agencies covering multiple jurisdictions.

“We continue to work with our IH and RCMP partners to help determine the best working hours and delivery model that provides the best service to our communities,” Rice explained. “There is no possibility at this time to have a clinician available 24/7 to assist NPD as a co-response team.”

The new service will pair an IH mental health clinician in support of an RCMP or Nelson city police officer to provide community outreach and education.

The liaisons respond to mental health and substance use crises, said Rice, employing de-escalation techniques and harm reduction approaches to provide mental health and substance use resources and support.

The official line

According to IH, the three Kootenay communities and Williams Lake do not see the same volume of interactions with individuals in crisis as Kamloops, Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton, which have established Mobile Integrated Crisis Response teams.

“However, IH and policing partners see the opportunity to provide additional supports to ensure people who are in distress are met with compassion and, where appropriate, connected to other health-care services and supports,” noted an IH release on the new service in Nelson.

An IH/RCMP joint committee will be meeting to look at services within the Interior to identify additional opportunities for “crises response enhancement.”

The development of the community outreach model is the result of partner discussions, a review of the data around demand for service and an examination of current mental health and substance use resources for community crisis response in the four communities.

Categories: General

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