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Nurses triaged hundreds of calls from Vancouver police in 2023, council hears – BC

Nurses triaged hundreds of calls from Vancouver police in 2023, council hears - BC
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Mental health nurses embedded at the Vancouver Police Department’s operational command centre have triaged hundreds of mental health crisis calls away from police since the summer of 2023, city council heard Tuesday.

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That detail emerged as council heard an update on its collaboration with Vancouver Coastal Health on mental health and addiction issues — and granted the organization another $4.6 million.

The initiative is the result of Mayor Ken Sim’s 2022 election pledge to hire 100 new police officers and 100 mental health nurses in a bid to ease the city’s public safety concerns.

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Click to play video: 'Part of Vancouver mayor’s plan for more police and nurses stalls'


Part of Vancouver mayor’s plan for more police and nurses stalls


The “100 nurse” pledge has since morphed into city grant funding to eventually support 58 mental health workers in a variety of specialized teams.

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On Tuesday, council heard at least one of those approaches was already bearing fruit.


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“We’ve been piloting this since June, and we received a large volume of calls which have been diverted to mental health clinicians to do some triaging,” Vancouver Coastal Health executive director of community services Bonnie Wilson said of the nurses embedded at police headquarters.

Those clinicians have intervened in 54 per cent of calls — 743 in total — she said, referring them to a more appropriate non-police response or directly resolving the issue on the phone.

“We have some great examples of how that nurse was able to look up the person’s medical history, know that they were attached to a community team, arrange for that team to go out the next day and visit them, all of which diverted a police response,” she said.

Deputy Police Chief Fiona Wilson said she was encouraged by the results, noting the initiative could help address cases where people don’t call 911 out of fear of a police response to a mental health crisis.


Click to play video: 'B.C government expands program for mental health calls, but nurses union worries about staffing'


B.C government expands program for mental health calls, but nurses union worries about staffing


“We would love to envision a day in the future when someone calls 911 and the answer is ‘police, fire, ambulance or mental health,’ but knowing that was a long way off, this was an alternative to that,” she told councillors.

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Council also heard how VCH has used the funding to double the size of the Car 87/88 program that pairs mental health nurses with police officers starting in December.

VCH aims to launch a new Indigenous Crisis Response Team later this year, along with a new Moderate Crisis De-escalation Team (MODE), which will offer same-day crisis intervention.

So far, just 16.5 full-time positions have been hired, with another 19.5 currently under recruitment and 22 to be recruited in the future.

“We do want to gradually ramp up and phase the implementation, we want to really work out all the kinks, we want to make sure we’ve got really good workflows in the partnerships, and it’s easier to do that when you start on a smaller scale,” the VCH director told councillors.

VCH used about $600,000 of the $2.75 million it was granted last year. With the $4.67 million councillors approved Tuesday and the $2.18 holdover from its 2023 budget, it expects to spend about $6.85 million on mental health and substance use response with the city in 2024.

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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