Interior Health, RCMP planning new approach to help police deal with mental health crises | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Interior Health, RCMP planning new approach to help police deal with mental health crises

A working group has been formed to find ways to better deal with issues like those shown in a video of Kelowna RCMP Const. Lacy Browning dragging UBCO student Mona Wang down a hallway after doing a mental health check.
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January 11, 2021 - 7:00 AM

Months after a Kelowna woman was dragged down a hallway by an RCMP officer doing a mental health check, police and Interior Health are finally taking steps to improve the way they deal with such situations.

Interior Health and the Southeast Division of the RCMP are forming a working group “to work together and enhance our overall response to mental health related calls for service,” according to a joint statement provided to iNFOnews.ca today, Jan. 8.

The issue came to a head last summer after a video was posted online of UBCO student Mona Wang being dragged down the hallway of the building where she lived by Const. Lacy Browning who had been called to do a mental health check.

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: RCMP investigating Kelowna officer caught on video dragging nursing student

That was followed by a call from Chief Supt. Brad Haugli of the Southeast Division to increase the number of mental health nurses working directly with RCMP.

The RCMP has two programs in the Interior Health region where a police officer is joined by a nurse in responding to calls regarding people in a mental health crisis.

Called Car 40 in Kamloops and PACT (Police And Crisis Team) in Kelowna, each team is only available four days a week.

Both cities have been lobbying for an expansion to the number of such teams for years.

Interior Health not only had refused the cities’ requests to add health staff to the program but pushed back against the RCMP request as well.

“That model isn’t, perhaps, the most effective use of that registered nurse’s time,” Karen Bloemink, vice-president for clinical operations for Interior Health, said at the time. “We have a responsibility to make sure that we’re putting scarce health resources where they can best impact the population in a positive way.”

Interior Health has a Community Response Team in every community within its region, she noted.

READ MORE: Interior Health isn't yet on board with expanding mental health teams with RCMP

The new approach will take into considerations the needs of all communities in the region, not just its two largest cities.

“The working group will identify existing issues and unique challenges in providing services to individuals in the southern Interior who are experiencing a mental health or a substance abuse crisis; acknowledging that needs of rural communities differ from urban areas,” the joint release from Interior Health and the RCMP states.

“Both organizations agreed the best strategy is to have a collaborative and holistic approach to supporting individuals and addressing issues in the district. We agreed to work towards creating a standardized crisis response and a consistent service model for our communities.”

The group will develop guidelines for information sharing and joint responses, the release states.

There is no timeline in the release on when or what actions might be taken other than to say this is at the early stages of the initiative and updates will follow.

Data on how many calls the two teams responded to last year was not provided as requested by iNFOnews.ca. Last summer, Kamloops city councillor Dale Bass said there was an increase of almost 36 per cent in the number of calls that Car 40 responded to in the first half of 2020.

READ MORE: Pressure building on Interior Health to provide nurses for RCMP mental health units


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