A community safety report says provincial downloading has caused Penticton fire service to attend more medical emergencies, including overdoses as seen in this photo taken a few years ago. The city is asking the province to fund mental health workers to deal with the mental health crisis happening on the streets. (Western File photo)

A community safety report says provincial downloading has caused Penticton fire service to attend more medical emergencies, including overdoses as seen in this photo taken a few years ago. The city is asking the province to fund mental health workers to deal with the mental health crisis happening on the streets. (Western File photo)

Penticton city council sends ‘urgent’ letter for Interior Health to fund Car 40

Council said the need for Car 40 - which pairs police with psych nurse - is urgent

City council is lobbying to get both the Car 40 and PACT program into Penticton because more than half of police calls are for mental health.

Penticton has been pushing for the Car 40 program for more than a year. The program pairs an officer with a mental health expert to go out to mental health crisis calls. Interior Health recently announced the expansion of Car 40 in Kamloops and Kelowna but Penticton was notably left out.

A letter is also going out to Canadian Mental Health Association to show the city’s interest in participating in the PACT program. The aim of a PACT (Peer Assisted Care Team) is to provide an alternative to police and shift B.C.’s crisis care to a community-based, client-centered, trauma-informed response

The decision to send the letters came after two presentations to city council on Tuesday.

Jonny Morris of the CMHA outlined the success of PACT (Peer Assisted Care Teams) in three other B.C. communities and the desire to expand the program. Teams include two trained civilian/community member with lived experience of mental health and/or substance use challenges and one mental health professional.

And following a presentation by Dr. Curt Griffiths, who co-authored the recently released Community Safety Resources review, council agreed to use the data within the report to once again press Interior Health for a Car 40 program which pairs a mental health worker with a police officer.

Penticton RCMP does not triage calls, they react to every call of which 52 per cent are for mental health.

“You need to find a way to take the case burden off your officers,” said Griffiths to council on Tuesday.

Penticton’s figures are striking, said Griffiths.

“It’s not 10 per cent of calls to mental health, it’s 52,” he said.

Penticton police deal with twice the calls for mental health than Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon.

READ MORE: ‘Officers are getting exhausted’: Penticton RCMP dealing with medical crisis on the streets

On paper, the province is responsible for mental health.

“Who goes to drug overdoses if ambulance is delayed, well it’s fire. It’s the downloading that has been going on for 10 years for fire, police and bylaws which is not sustainable,” said Griffiths.

“You’ve been left on your own by the province. We suggest there should be a two-person mental health team dispatched out of detachment. There has got to be a way to let police get back to policing,” he added.

READ MORE: Penticton’s perception of crime and social disorder is the reality, says report

“I know it’s a slippery slope. In Edmonton, the police hired their own team because they couldn’t get social workers to come out in evenings and weekends,” said Griffiths.

Coun. Amelia Boultbee wondered how you get the province to come to the table.

Not many communities have, he replied but it appears they are more receptive to listening since the change in leadership. IH is as well, he hoped.

“Get the stakeholders together but if the province does offer anything get it in writing,” he added.

The report also suggests that the city invoice the province at the end of the year for services they should have provided.

A bold move, one that hasn’t been done by any other B.C. city but Penticton is known to make bold choices with the province, suggested Griffiths.

READ MORE: Penticton fire deal with 8 overdoses on welfare Wednesday

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

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