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Community crisis response enhanced in Trail

Trail Daily Times - 2/16/2024

Interior Health (IH) has added new community-based supports for policing partners, which aims to improve the response for people experiencing mental health and substance use-related crises.

These supports include four newly hired outreach liaison clinicians in Trail, Nelson, Cranbrook and Williams Lake.

"When people are experiencing a mental-health emergency and reach out to police, we need to take the right steps to provide them with the care they need to stay safe," said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. "With the creation of outreach liaison teams, more people in crisis will be met with appropriate care, and a clear path to the help they need."

Locally, this new service will see an IH mental health clinician supporting Trail RCMP and Nelson city police to provide community outreach and education.

IH says these liaisons will respond to mental health and substance use crises, when appropriate, using de-escalation techniques and harm reduction approaches to provide mental health and substance use resources and support.

"These are health conditions that are stigmatized, complex and distressing to those experiencing them," said Susan Brown, Interior Health president and CEO. "Our ongoing priority with partners like the RCMP is to enhance mental health and substance use supports across the region to ensure people get the help they need during their most vulnerable moments."

The development of a new community outreach model is the result of partner discussions, a review of the data around demand for service and an examination of current mental health and substance use resources for community crisis response in these communities.

"These specialized outreach liaison teams are the result of the continued efforts being made by Interior Health and RCMP joint committee in taking action on the mental health challenges our communities face by providing a crisis response service and support across the region to ensure that those in crisis get the help they need," said Chief Superintendent Brad Haugli, BC RCMP Southeast District Commander.

The new service will operate eight hours a day, five days a week in each community.

These four communities do not see the same volume of interactions with individuals in crisis as Kamloops, Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton, which have established Mobile Integrated Crisis Response teams.

However, IH and policing partners say they see the opportunity to provide additional supports to ensure people who are in distress are met with compassion and, where appropriate, connected to other health-care services and supports.

Teams in all four communities will work together on training, reporting and program evaluation to ensure consistency across the region.

An IH/RCMP Joint Committee continues to meet and work together looking at services within the Interior to identify additional opportunities for crises response enhancement.

IH also has existing Crisis Response Teams available to support community members and existing clients who are experiencing a crisis. These teams are the main contact for RCMP for requests to provide mental health assessments, including suicide risk assessments; substance withdrawal assessments; links to opioid agonist treatment if required; and referrals to community services.