Mental health visits continue to prove their worth

RCMP, Northern Health team up one day a week

The commanding officer of the RCMP detachment here says he’s looking forward to year end statistics on the number of mental health and related calls his officers have fielded.

Already anecdotal evidence has been accumulated showing such calls are down down since the detachment teamed up with the Northern Health Authority so that one officer and one psychiatric nurse team up one day a week to visit people with the idea of preventing the need for an active response, says Sergeant Mark Smaill.

“No question. We’re really seeing this program be successful. People are getting the help they need,” he said.

What began as a pilot program has now become a standard fixture of the detachment to the point officers are brought in on what would have been an odd duty day so that the tours can take place.

And although not introduced in response to the pandemic and its effects on people owing to restrictions on activities and gatherings, Smaill said officers and nurses are able to provide assistance.

“It’s really good to see,” he added of comments his officers are making as they go about their regular duties.

“It really looks like we are having an impact with fewer [active response] calls. Our calls are quite a bit down.”

The detachment has even refined the weekly patrols to the point it has two officers more or less dedicated to the task, acquiring a skill set in that duty.

The goal of prevention is particularly crucial in smaller communities such as Houston which do not have a full range of mental health services or responses, particularly at night.

It then falls to the RCMP to act as the public service of last resort, said Smaill.

And that could mean officers taking someone to either the Burns Lake or Smithers hospitals which is then time away from Houston and area patrols and responses.

On a broader community level, council was asked in the summer to take a lead role in establishing a formal group of local public sector and non-profit agencies in which representatives from each would regularly meet and go over local cases, deciding which service or agency would be best to provide assistance.

Called a “situation table”, the provincial government has provided start up grants in other communities around the region, part of a province-wide initiative.

The prospect of a situation table has already received general acceptance from public sector and non-profit agencies.

As it is, representatives from public sector and non-profit agencies already discuss specific cases and how best to approach solutions and interventions.