Kamloops’ Car 40 program will be expanded to serve the community’s needs around the clock if the B.C. Liberals are elected on Oct. 24.
That was the promise from B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson, who made the announcement at the Kamloops RCMP North Shore Community Policing Office, flanked by local candidates Peter Milobar and Todd Stone.
Under the Liberals’ proposal, Interior Health would cough up an additional $250,000 to be put toward approximately 2.5 new full-time nurse positions for the program in Kamloops, which would come via a funding injection or through some sort of budget rearrangement.
“We’ve got to move ahead on issues related to mental health, catch these issues in the early stages and not simply leave them to the criminal-justice system,” Wilkinson told reporters outside the community policing office in North Kamloops. “This [program] has been an excellent example in Kamloops. We’re proud to support it and say that should we be elected it’ll be funded by Interior Health.”
Wilkinson said the proposal came at the request of Milobar and Stone.
Car 40 is a program that pairs a mental-health practitioner with an RCMP officer as they respond to calls involving mental-health situations.
Kamloops Mounties and local politicians want to see the Car 40 program expanded, but Interior Health has thus far been non-committal about adding a mental-health nurse to the program. While the city supports two police officers for the program, only one nurse is funded by Interior Health.
The service operates four days a week and only during daytime hours. However, as Kamloops RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky has noted, mental-health calls often occur late at night — which contributes to Car 40 not being able to address the significant number of files related to the Mental Health Act.
Wilkinson said it’s important to expand the program because mental-health and addiction issues are “highly visible” in communities, noting that while police do their best to manage the issues, they are often not related to the criminal-justice system.
He said having trained medical professionals assist police to defuse the situations and get people the support they need is the goal.
“If this program can be fully funded and supported, we’ll see even fewer issues ending up in the criminal-justice system and more ending up in workable health-care solutions,” Wilkinson said, adding he feels the money can be found in the IH budget and, if not, additional dollars should be added.
“This is a big enough city now that it deserves that kind of service,” Wilkinson said.
Stone, B.C. Liberal candidate for Kamloops-South Thompson, said additional nurses would essentially double the hours available to respond to calls, which, Milobar noted, will give the program sufficient staffing resources that can be moved to suit the needs of the clientele.
“It gives them flexibility,” said Milobar, B.C. Liberal candidate for Kamloops-North Thompson, adding that if there’s spikes in calls on a Friday night, the program could commit the additional staffing then instead of a daytime Monday shift.
Lecky said the Car 40 program is busier now than it has been recently, noting one member of the unit described it as having three times the normal case load.
In the first six months of the year, the city had 900 files related to the Mental Health Act, but there were only 230 Car 40 interventions.
“The city has put up the commitment for the additional RCMP resource and equipment,” Stone said. “Interior Health has been dragging its heels.”