Penticton RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager at an earlier panel discussion. De Jager told city council on Jan. 22 that the detachment’s efforts to aid individuals with mental health risks through CAST have so far been successful. Western News file photo

Social concerns a top priority for Penticton RCMP

Supt. De Jager reported to council the new task force has helped 24 individuals already

While certain crime stats were on the rise for the Penticton RCMP in 2018, members of the detachment also increased their efforts to help people in cases where mental wellness was a factor.

Superintendent Ted De Jager delivered the 2018 year-end report for the Penticton RCMP to city council recently, where he highlighted the number of cases his team has handled in which they connected someone with mental health services.

“From our initial data, which has been presented before in 2017 and 2018 for instance, we average about 1,400 files that are flagged mental health,” said De Jager. “So that’s a police officer making the determination that there’s a mental health component, and of that, just over 50 per cent of them result in apprehension. That’s about two per day where a police officer is apprehending someone under the Mental Health Act and bringing them to services.”

De Jager also noted the work being done by the newly-formed Community Active Support Table (CAST). The group meets once a week to address social concerns for the entire South Okanagan Similkameen using a multi-sectoral approach to connect individuals at elevated risk with services.

Related: Mental Wellness Centre struggles with loss of Greyhound bus connections

Since training and rolling out the program in late August 2018, De Jager said CAST has already helped 28 individuals with acutely elevated risks. The Penticton RCMP detachment mental health intervention co-ordinator has a mandate to redirect those who have a mental illness away from the court system and connect them with local resources.

“I think that CAST has been a unique collaboration opportunity for community service providers and government agencies to come together in a constructive way,” said Lindsay Bysterveld, from the South Okanagan Women in Need Society. “Its model is proving to be a valuable tool within our community to address individuals with acutely elevated risk in a much more manageable timeframe for positive change to occur.”

The Penticton South Okanagan-Similkameen Regional RCMP detachment is highlighting the work done by CAST and the RCMP mental health co-ordinator for Bell Let’s Talk Day (Jan. 30). The annual initiative is designed to engage the country in conversation about mental health.

A full mental health report from the RCMP will be presented to council in the next quarter. De Jager said they need to collect eight months to one year of data to ensure that the subject is well-covered.

De Jager’s presentation followed a delegation from Sharon Evans with the Mental Wellness Centre who urged for council to continue its support of the centre. When questioned as to how the centre helps with mental issues in homeless people, Evans said the centre would love to step up its efforts and have people on the street but the funding isn’t there.

“We really are looking to agencies such as the Canadian Mental Health Association, CAST and our partners in Interior Health to push forward, because it is working. When we look at some of our real file generators — for instance we have people that generate in excess of 30 to 40 files a year,” said De Jager. “These are strictly with mental health, and Const. James Grandy’s intervention and connection to services with these agencies, has resulted in many of those going down to zero.

“So 100 per cent reduction in calls for service is pretty impressive. And we certainly look forward to serving the community in that way.”

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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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