A new Police and Crisis Team (PACT) has been created to help provide enhanced community response to people experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis.
Interior Health and the Kelowna RCMP teamed up to create this mobile mental health and substance use intervention team.
“For people who might be struggling with mental health and or substance use problems, their first interaction with emergency services is very important,” said Premier Christy Clark. “Specially-trained nurses and RCMP officers will be better able to assess someone’s needs on the scene, and create better outcomes for everyone involved.
The PACT unit is made up of a dedicated psychiatric nurse and a specially trained RCMP officer.
They patrol the streets and respond to call, assessing the needs of each person before connecting them with the appropriate services to try and avoid a repeat visit from the PACT.
“There were more than 4,000 mental health and substance use admissions to Kelowna General Hospital’s emergency department last year and approximately 15 per cent of those visits were people who returned within 30 days,” said Kelowna-Lake Country MLA, Norm Letnick. “ The new PACT will reduce these visits and provide more personalized care to some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”
Crisis response isn’t the only duty for the PACT team, however.
The duo will also be counted on to provide support mental health and substance abuse clients to avoid repeated incidents with the same people.
"Police recognize the value of taking the time to talk with the person in distress, to ask the right questions, and to listen," said Supt. Brent Mundle, Officer-In-Charge of the Kelowna RCMP. "Combined with the expertise of a mental health nurse, it is anticipated this new PACT program will provide an enhanced service to people in distress and, ultimately, offer them a high degree of patience, care and compassion."
PACT aims to provide an in-depth initial roadside triage and assessment and offer a broader range of options for resolution than straight apprehension or hospitalization.
This may include referral to a family physician, services at the Community Health and Services Centre, or more urgent care provided in a hospital.
“We’re very proud to have this great partnership for Kelowna,” said City of Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, “Mental health and substance use isn’t just a health concern, it requires the support of the entire community.”
The new PACT began training earlier this month and their first official day was Monday, March 27.
In their first week on the job, they will be initiating processes to coordinate the health care of several individuals that repeatedly access the emergency department via police intervention.