Kelowna RCMP and Interior Health raising awareness for mental health issues

RCMP tackle stigma

Wednesday is Bell Let’s Talk Day and the Kelowna RCMP and Interior Health are coming together to raise awareness about mental health in the community to address stigma and to continue the conversation around it.

Both the RCMP and IH are working together to address the needs of vulnerable people, from providing mental health and substance use services for clients in police custody, to joint efforts in engaging with and supporting people through street level interventions.

They are also working together in situations where people who come into contact with police will benefit from a direct connection to IH’s Mental Health and Substance Use services.

This work and these connections are expected to happen regularly.

Since 2017 Kelowna RCMP officers have been partnering with mental health professionals to provide intervention for people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Const. Dopson and Const. Fortier are specially-trained officers who work rotating shifts with a Registered Psychiatric Nurse.

The Police and Crisis Team (PACT) program has police respond to calls for service that require mental health support, as well as respond to calls from various community partners.

With PACT, a nurse and police officer attend calls together, allowing the nurse to focus on assessing the person in crisis while the officer’s primary role is to maintain the team’s safety and support the clinician.

The team works together to support the individual and ensures they receive appropriate follow-up care, bringing them to hospital or connecting them to other supports in the community.

“When we are working with a client who is experiencing a mental health crisis, I’m able to focus on listening to the client, observing their behaviour, and conducting an assessment,” said Nurse Kristina.

“The officers I work with ensure the environment around us is safe so we can focus on the task at hand and determine what the next steps should be.”

When the PACT patrollers are out around the city checking in on the vulnerable, they don’t wear frontline uniforms, so as to not intimidate people in their most vulnerable moment.

They also drive around in unmarked police vehicles.

“Whether it be getting someone connected with social services or finding them a bed at a shelter, this is part of our daily routine,” said Const. Dopson. “Many of our regular clients have complex needs, and although it’s not a solution, ensuring they have access to support and somewhere warm to sleep can make a difference in their day”.

If you or someone you know is in a mental health crisis, there are a variety of supports and services.

Visit Interior Health’s website for information about Mental Health and Substance Use services.

IH has a 24/7 Crisis Line Network that can be reached by calling 1-888-353-2273 for immediate assistance.

Trained Crisis Line Responders provide emotional support, crisis de-escalation and intervention 24/7 through phone, chat and text.

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