Fort St. John RCMP say the detachment's new Car 60 program to respond to mental health calls will have its inaugural day on Monday, June 27.
The program partners a police officer with a mental health nurse to respond to mental health calls in the community. RCMP say officers responded to 493 mental health related files in 2021. Between Jan. 1 and May 31 of this year, officers responded to 177 calls.
"The intersection between policing and mental health has been scrutinized in recent years, said Fort St. John RCMP detachment commander Insp. Anthony Hanson, in a release. "By initiating the Car 60 program the Fort St John RCMP is attempting to meet the increasing demands while providing improved service to our community."
The program has been two years in the making, with the detachment working to develop the program in partnership with Northern Health. The program was modelled after Car 60's success in Prince George, where Hanson headed the unit before taking command in Fort St. John.
RCMP say by having mental health workers partnered with officers, people in mental distress can be assessed on scene, and that medical care and treatment, or resources can referred as needed. Such a collaboration "will potentially lower demand on finite police resources," RCMP said.
"Supports such as Car 60 are vital to helping people with mental health and substance use challenges in communities across the North, said Angela De Smit, Northern Health’s Chief Operating Officer for the Northeast. "The launch of this program adds to other ongoing improvements to mental health and substance use programs in our region, and means even more people will get the services they need and deserve on their pathway to recovery."
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