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Mental health cop calls on the rise in Port Moody

Port Moody police are working with Fraser Health to find a better way to support people with mental health issues who are apprehended under the Mental Health Act, says Chief Const. Chris Rattenbury. - PMPD
Port Moody police are working with Fraser Health to find a better way to support people with mental health issues who are apprehended under the Mental Health Act, says Chief Const. Chris Rattenbury.
— image credit: PMPD

Port Moody police officers are seeing an increase in the number of calls involving people with mental health concerns.

And now the department is looking at ways to increase the effectiveness of their response while also reducing the strain on police resources.

PMPD has been tracking the numbers and is finding officers spending several hours each week answering calls related to an emotional disturbance. Chief Const. Chris Rattenbury said police have noticed a spike in the number of calls dealing with emotionally disturbed people or individuals with mental health issues in the last four to five years, which is putting a strain on police resources.

Police typically apprehend the individual under the Mental Health Act, Rattenbury said, and when they take them to Royal Columbian Hospital, officers can wait up to three hours for a doctor to see the patient.

“The whole call takes four and a half to five hours, that is a lot,” said Rattenbury, who said the issue, outlined in the minutes of a recent police board meeting, is something police all over the Lower Mainland have been noticing

But there could be changes on the horizon that could reduce the time spent on handling these calls while still providing support to vulnerable people.

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING

Rattenbury said PMPD is working with Fraser Health on solutions, something Walid Chahine of the Tri-Cities Mental Health office has confirmed.

In the coming weeks, PMPD is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding outlining roles and responsibilities of police and mental health support services (Chahine said a similar MOU has been signed with Coquitlam RCMP).

“I have met with [PMPD] a couple of times looking at how we can collaborate more closely and work together,” Chahine said, noting that anecdotal reports have indicated that hospital wait times for doctors to see police-escorted patients have already been reduced.

Port Moody isn’t the only city seeing an increase in the number of people with mental health concerns needing help and support. Chahine said, typically, between 1% and 5% of the population is dealing with a mental health or substance-abuse issue and, as the Tri-Cities population increases, police and mental health workers are seeing more people with these issues.

In his office alone, the number of referrals has doubled in the last seven years and the Tri-Cities mental health office is now dealing with 200 referrals a month.

ISSUE NOT UNIQUE TO TRI-CITIES

“I don’t think that’s unique,” Chahine said. “I go to offices across Fraser Health and I see the same story.”

He said his office already has appointed someone to liaise with the RCMP and a similar arrangement is in the works for Port Moody.

“I’m glad that law enforcement are keen on developing an MOU. We always welcome the partnership and the collaboration,” Chahine said.

For Chief Const. Rattenbury, PMPD would like to see a way to reduce the time spent on dealing with these calls while still offering support to vulnerable people.

“We’re there to help and if there are some issues, we want to help out. If we all work together, there can be a better solution to the problem,” Rattenbury said.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

 

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