Mayor Julius Bloomfield said it’s disappointing Penticton was not included in a recently announced plan to see more Interior Health staff hired for specialized mental health crisis response services.
Instead, RCMP in Kelowna and Kamloops had their partnerships with IH enhanced Dec. 1, adding nurses on the street and supporting more people in distress by connecting them directly to health care.
Previously referred to as the Car 40 program, Interior Health says its collaboration with RCMP in both cities will provide quality care for people experiencing mental health and substance-use-related crises. Response team services in Kelowna and Kamloops will now run for 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
“While it is disappointing Penticton is not included in this expansion, I met with the head of Interior Health earlier today and came away from those discussions with Susan Brown encouraged and confident they are fully aware of the needs of our community,” said Bloomfield.
“We have been clear on the need for a Car 40-type program in the past and reinforced that in the meeting with Interior Health.”
The program — now called the Integrated Crisis Response Teams — pairs RCMP officers with mental health professionals for crisis response services. IH says it intends to explore the expansion of the program in smaller jurisdictions which is a welcome sign of encouragement for Bloomfield.
Penticton RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter, said the need is urgent in Penticton but he remains hopeful IH will come to the table.
“I, along with other community partners have been asking for Interior Health’s support in funding a Car 40 type program here in Penticton. In 2021, Penticton RCMP responded to 2,240 mental health related calls for service – our community needs help,” said Hunter.
“I am excited to hear that Interior Health has now formalized an Integrated Crisis Response Team model, working closely with the RCMP in serving our most vulnerable community members,” Hunter added.
For Bloomfield, this was his first chance to discuss the issue directly with the head of IH.
“I believe this is a positive start of the momentum towards Penticton finally getting the support that both the city and the marginalized population need and deserve.”
The need for a Car 40 program was expressed by candidates throughout the election campaign in Penticton this fall. It also became among the Penticton-based priorities last September in Whistler when local politicians met with provincial bodies at the Union of BC Municipalities.
Penticton came away from those meetings with no action offered by the province.
“As council sets its strategic priorities, the establishment of a Car 40 program that provides support to those in crisis and to those responding to the situation will be front and centre,” Bloomfield added after Thursday’s news.