Penticton city council went to the Union of B.C. Municipalities in Whistler last week hoping to get support to bring a province-wide Car 40 program to deal with the mental health and addictions crisis taking up so much police resources.
Municipalities from across B.C. backed Penticton city council’s call for a province-wide program that pairs police with mental health workers to go out to mental health crisis calls.
The city came away from the conference with no action offered by the Minister.
“This is a program that has been shown to work, that can make an impact and allows people to be treated with a greater level of care and concern,” said Mayor John Vassilaki. “We need partnerships to deal with the health and safety issues we’re facing and we need to replace the scattered approach we have right now. It’s time for the province to implement a predictable and sustainably funded program.”
On Wednesday, city council met with Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson about the need for immediate action and while the minister expressed the appropriate sentiments, there was no commitment to translating them into action, said the mayor.
Meeting requests to Health Minister Adrian Dix and Municipal Affairs Minister Nathan Cullen were declined and referred to Minister Malcolmson.
The City had a meeting scheduled Thursday with Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, who has been tasked by the Premier to work with the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to invest in community-based mental health and social services so there are more trained front-line workers to help people in crisis and free up police resources to focus on more serious crimes.
The Car 40 program has been in place since 1978 but not widely used. In Vancouver, the programs have been shown to reduce the need for patrol response and unnecessary hospital admissions, while connecting people in crisis to the appropriate services in the community. It is used in Kamloops and Kelowna although requests to Interior Health for more support have gone unanswered.
Across the province, requests for the introduction of Car 40 or expansion of established programs have been met with inconsistent responses from local health authorities. The resolution from Penticton underscores the need for such programs to be implemented and funded provincially not as ‘one-off’ local programs, said city council.
Following UBCM’s endorsement of the resolution, it will be sent to the Province for consideration and response. The City has requested immediate action and will continue to pursue it with all the ministries involved.
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