Kelowna RCMP said it received more than 3,100 mental-health-related calls in 2021, which equates to about nine such calls every day.
“Kelowna RCMP and Interior Health are having those conversations on how we can refine our process and deliver services especially to mutual clients,” said Cpl. Tammy Lobb, Kelowna RCMP’s media relations officer.
There is currently one Interior Health nurse that is part of Kelowna RCMP’s detachment, in its crisis team (PACT) but it’s not a 24-hour service, according to police.
“Ask any police agency, the answer would always be we could use more resources when it comes to calls for service,” Lobb told Global News on Thursday.
“Ideally, we would like to see a 24-7 PACT team.”
She said a large number of the calls are attended by police officers without the assistance of nurses, which can be challenging.
Many police officers don’t have the professional training that psychiatric nurses or social workers have, she noted.
“It can be difficult, as police officers we get a certain amount of training, but no we are not experts,” said Lobb.
“We don’t have the training nurses have, so sometimes that can be very challenging. I think we’ve been pretty vocal about how useful our PACT team is and when (PACT is on shift), officers may have that support, where PACT can come to their call.”
Another concern for Kelowna RCMP is that for its cell block, it does not have an on-duty nurse. Something the RCMP would like to see change.
“We have one of the biggest cell blocks in the province. Conversations are being had right now, ideally, it would be great to have a full-time nurse in the cell block,” said Lobb.
When Global News reached out to Interior Health about these issues, it declined an interview on the matter but did provide us information regarding crisis help lines, and the work they are doing with the RCMP.
In an email Interior Health wrote, “Working together, the Kelowna RCMP and Interior Health are committed to addressing the needs of vulnerable clients in our region.”
“From providing mental health and addictions services to clients in police custody, to joint efforts to engage with and support people through street level interventions, we recognize that cooperation is critical. The ongoing toxic drug crisis and COVID-19 pandemic are only two examples of additional challenges facing people already living with mental health and substance use issues.”
Interior Health encourages anyone experiencing mental health issues to call one of its hotlines.