Police in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam now have a dedicated vehicle on the road to help with mental health and substance use calls.
This week, the RCMP detachment that serves the two cities, as well as the villages of Anmore and Belcarra, launched its Mobile Integrated Crisis Response (MICR) team that sees psychiatric nurses paired with officers.
The MICR team is dispatched as a secondary responder to 911 calls involving someone with mental health or illegal drug concerns.
The aim of the unit is provide care to people in mental health emergencies and to link them with health agencies for ongoing help.
The program is also designed to free up Mounties’ time so they don’t have to wait hours with a mental health patient at a hospital.
Last month, in his presentation before the city’s council-in-committee, Coquitlam RCMP Supt. Keith Bramhill said there was a 17 per cent uptick in mental health-related police files in the second trimester of 2023 (May to August) versus the three-year average, and hospital wait times rose nine per cent.
In July, following Bramhill’s first-trimester report, city council wrote a letter to health minister Adrian Dix and Fraser Health to press for faster admissions to Eagle Ridge Hospital for patients with mental health challenges.
The average police wait time is about 100 minutes, he said.
One in five calls
Besides Coquitlam and PoCo, the provincial government also recently started MICR teams in Burnaby, Abbotsford and Chilliwack.
"When police officers work alongside mental-health experts, it best serves those who are in a moment of crisis or distress," said Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, in a news release.
Natalie McCarthy, vice president of regional care integration at Fraser Health, added that people having a mental health crisis will get the compassion, respect and help that they need to assist with their recovery.
The MICR program expansion was included as part of the $1 billion invested in the Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction this year.
MICR teams are currently operating in:
- North Shore
- Prince George
- Fort St. John
And more MICR teams will soon launch in the West Shore, Prince Rupert, Squamish, Penticton and Vernon.
According to the B.C. government, one in five calls for police help involve someone with a mental health challenge.