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Saanich petitions province for mental-health measures

Council sends letter asking for more support for police and funding for crisis teams

Mark Brennae
July 31, 2023
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Saanich petitions province for mental-health measures

Council sends letter asking for more support for police and funding for crisis teams

Mark Brennae
Jul 31, 2023
Photo: District of Saanich
Photo: District of Saanich
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Saanich petitions province for mental-health measures

Council sends letter asking for more support for police and funding for crisis teams

Mark Brennae
July 31, 2023
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Saanich petitions province for mental-health measures

Saanich council has asked the provincial government for more money to support its police force and the Mobile Integrated Crisis Response Team in responding to calls dealing with mental-health.

The letter, which went out by email Friday, requests “an increase of support for Saanich Police to better deal with the increase of mental-health calls for service, including providing additional funding to increase the capacity of the Integrated Mobile Crisis Response Team to operate in the CRD.”

It also asks the province “to recognize the burden that a lack of provincial health services is having on Saanich Police, its members, and the entire District of Saanich.”

In BC, one in five interactions with police involves someone with a mental-health disorder, according to the BC government.

Coun. Nathalie Chambers, who spearheaded the motion, says the ratio is even higher in Saanich.

“Up to 30% are mental-health calls and they can tie up about three officers for many hours, and as you know, we need our frontline officers to be able to deliver a criminal response,” Chambers told Capital Daily.

“We look forward to working with the province and our regional partners to increase IMCR Team capacity and identify solutions that address the ongoing challenges that impact community safety and well-being,” Saanich Mayor Dean Murdock told Capital Daily in an email.

Last month the provincial government announced an additional $3M in funding to introduce the Mobile Integrated Crisis Response Team program (MICR Teams) to nine more BC communities, including the Westshore. Right now, MICR Teams are involved in 10 BC communities, including Victoria.

“We have heard from many police departments and health authorities that currently run Mobile Integrated Crisis Response Teams that the programs are extremely helpful–and demand is growing,” Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general, said at the time of the announcement.

MICR Teams are specialized crisis-response teams that pair a police officer with a health-care professional to provide on-site emotional and mental-health assessments, crisis intervention and referrals to appropriate services in the community.

The idea is to free up police resources so they can focus on crime.

“We have a serious crisis on our hands right now in terms of dealing with these mental-health treatment issues and they are medical issues,” said Coun. Karen Harper.

“And of course, we have the challenge that we have a police force and then we have the health system who are funded by totally different areas and don’t always come together well.”

Harper said she’s not anticipating a swift response.

“I don’t expect anything to happen truly quickly–I'm not unrealistic–but having said that, I think it's important for us to start to looking at how do we deal with these issues–not in silos and not assuming that one size fits all,” she told council last week.

“I think both for our police as well as for the people who suffer from various challenges, we need to start looking more broadly at how do we solve these problems, who’s responsible for them and how is it done in the most effective way so, this is I think is at least asking them to take a look at that and I don’t think there’s any harm in that.”

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