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A fully staffed Mental Health team enhances RCMP effectiveness

By Norman Galimski,  Prince Rupert Northern View, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The complete staffing of the Mental Health and Substance Use Program over the summer, in Prince Rupert, has allowed the team to provide more effective services to the community and the RCMP.

The city has hosted the Northern Health unit for approximately two years now, but has only recently expand into what it is now.

“We’ve had vacant positions. So the team is fully recruited now [and] we’ve been able to really hone in on this service in a more meaningful way,” Clare Hart, northwest director of special services in Northern Health, told The Northern View.

The team is made up of four people consisting of nursing substance-use clinicians and one social worker. The service is open to anyone need and is complexly voluntary.

“We really wanted to streamline access to health services for people who have been with mental health and substance use concerns,” Hart said.

One of the ways they have been able to hone their service is being available to work with the municipal police department.

“We’ve always had really good working relationships with the RCMP,” Hart said. “Over the course of 2021, we’ve really worked hard to strengthen collaborative relationships with the RCMP and within the community.”

“[The RCMP] can call on the team directly, and the team will either meet them at the scene or go out with the RCMP to provide care,” she said.

When the RCMP receive a call and it is perceived that the help of a mental health professional is needed, the police have the option to call on the mental health and substance use team, if it is safe to do so, to provide advice on how to address the situation, Cont. Gabriel Gravel, RCMP media relations officer, told The Northern View.

“I think they’re a great resource to us and the community,” he said.

Since police are not mental-health professionals, having access to the team is a valued asset, Gravel said.

“People don’t necessarily want to talk to police,” he said.

Being able to have an option to a different approach or another way to talk to people makes the unit not only beneficial to the police, but to the community as well, Gravel said.

As of Oct. 14, the Prince Rupert RCMP has received 356 mental-health related calls, representing 5.2 percent of all calls.

Top photo credit: Cont. Gabriel Gravel has said the mental health team is a valued service the RCMP can call upon. (Black Press Media files)

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