IH won't provide Kelowna with clear answer on expanding PACT program

'All I've seen is no action'

At least one Kelowna city councillor is confused why the city can't get a straight answer from Interior Health about expanding a successful mental health initiative in the city.

The Police and Crisis Team program, introduced in the city in March 2017, pairs a nurse with a specially trained RCMP officer to respond to mental health emergencies. Currently, just one nurse/officer pairing is available Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

After Interior Health told Castanet they had no formal record of the City of Kelowna asking to expand the PACT program, Mayor Colin Basran shared an October 2017 letter he sent to the chair of IH's board requesting the expansion, along with an additional report to council from 2019 highlighting the city's desire to expand the program. The city says IH staff reviewed the report and were well aware of the city's desire to grow the program.

“This should not be a surprise to IH,” Basran told Castanet Thursday.

When asked to clarify their previous statement in light of Basran's letter, IH spokesperson Karl Hardt said in a statement: “The letter the mayor released addresses conditions as they were three years ago.”

Hardt did not clarify whether IH received Basran's letter in 2017 or reviewed the 2019 report, despite Castanet asking directly.

City councillor Ryan Donn says city council never heard back from IH about the request three years ago, but the request is still as valid today as it was three years ago.

“If there's an issue or a reason why they're not, I haven't heard that. All I've seen is no action,” Donn said. “What I'm not sure of is why the 'no' exists. I would love them to tell us, is it budget? Is it lack of available nurses? Is there something wrong with the program, do they have feedback? But I've heard nothing.

“There has been no 'no.' There's just been no action. Which is effectively a no.”

The program is being discussed after a disturbing video came to light earlier this week as part of a civil suit against a Kelowna RCMP officer. The video shows Const. Lacey Browning dragging UBC Okanagan student Mona Wang down an apartment building hallway and stepping on her head, after Const. Browning responded to a “wellness check" on Wang. Wang had attempted suicide that night, but since her mental health emergency fell on a Monday, the PACT team was not available to respond.

The City of Kelowna currently provides funding to the RCMP to add a second PACT shift, but since IH has not funded an additional nurse, that RCMP staffing is being used elsewhere.

“We are committed to continuing to provide Kelowna residents timely, caring, and efficient mental health services and we look forward to meeting with the City of Kelowna directly on how our initiatives can complement the work of law enforcement,” IH's Hardt said in his statement.

As such, it remains unclear if the PACT program, lauded as a success by the City of Kelowna, will be expanded to run seven days a week any time soon.

More Kelowna News

Recent Trending



Kelowna SPCA Featured Pet

Jessie Kelowna SPCA >



Castanet Proud Member of RTNDA Canada