Mental health visits continue to have benefits

RCMP officer teams up with psychiatric health nurse

A regular routine of visits by an RCMP officer and a psychiatric health nurse to people within the community who have mental health issues is proving to be a benefit, says the acting commander of the Houston/Granisle RCMP detachment.

Now in its second year, the visits provide advice, assistance and referrals for services to ward off situations which might require a response by police, says Corporal Ryan Fillmore.

“It’s being proactive instead of reactive,” said Fillmore in adding that there’s been a marked decrease in calls for police intervention since the program began.

An officer and a psychiatric nurse spend one day each week making visits to people’s homes and time permitting, walking through a variety of public spaces to speak with people they encounter.

With calls for service from mental health issues on the decline, one benefit is having more police time for other matters, said Fillmore.

The local detachment is taking the same approach of continued and regular contact with the community as a preventative measure through foot patrols of public spaces such as Jamie Baxter Park, the mall and the downtown core area, he added.

“And not just in a vehicle. It’s getting out of the car,” said Fillmore. “It’s important to be seen by the public so that they feel safe about being in public spaces.”

Officers have also been concentrating on prolific and repeat offenders so that several remain in custody pending future court dates.

“In these circumstances the courts have seen fit to remand these individuals as a safety measure,” said Fillmore.

He estimated that officers deal with approximately six prolific offenders in the community.

“These are people who can generate quite a few [police] files,” Fillmore noted.

Community connections also involve officers involved in local events, schools and in sports.

Next month, for example, Constable Harry Dhaliwall along with residents Sue Jones and Cindy Sullivan will be taking part in the 2022 Tour de North featuring more than 20 officers and participants cycling south from Fort St. John-Dawson Creek to Williams Lake from Sept. 14 to Sept. 20.

They’ve been raising money on behalf of the Canadian Cancer Society.

Officers are also participating in a program handing out coupons for treats at the local 7-11.

“So if they see a group of youth, for instance, on bicycles and wearing helmets, they’ll stop and given them coupons,” Fillmore said.

Fillmore’s comments came within a report updating the District of Houston council on detachment activities from April to June, the second quarter of this year.

From 549 total calls for service for April-June of 2021, the number edged up slightly to 585 calls for April-June of this year.

There were 182 Criminal Code files last April-June compared to 213 this April-June.

This was Fillmore’s first report to council. He’s now the acting detachment commander, a task assigned since the transfer of Sgt. Mark Smaill to Smithers where he is the detachment commander there.