Nelson's police chief Wayne Holland — a former Vancouver Police inspector — said for the fifth year in a row police are dealing with more mental health calls. Holland wants a police car dedicated to responding to those calls, similar to Vancouver's Car 87, even though Nelson, with a population of about 10,000 is a fraction of Vancouver's size.
"Just for the month of January 2015, when you compare us to this time last year we're up 62 per cent in our call load. We're already having handled 75 calls of this nature and that is an emergency situation. It's a crisis in my books," he told Daybreak South's Chris Walker.
The car would be manned by a police officer and a mental health worker.
"All it would mean is two people getting in a car and in a proactive manner going out and just looking for the people that we know could be showing signs of distress and doing something before they are required to be lodged in a $1000 plus hospital for the day," he said.
Holland's request for a dedicated mental health car have been rejected by Interior Health (IHA) — the agency that would be responsible for providing the mental health worker.
"The mental health and substance use program has looked at this model very carefully at the time of the first request and do not believe that it is a sustainable model for a rural community," said Chris Huston, the community manager for mental health and substance use.
Huston said he's well aware of the increase in calls, and IHA has increased services in Nelson. Holland said that hasn't been enough.
"Police officers are people that want to do the best for those that they serve, and this is not the best that we can possibly provide for people in mental distress. Frankly, I'm frustrated, my members are frustrated," said Holland.
"I am asking. I'll do whatever is required. I'm begging, I'm imploring and I'm beseeching them to rethink their position in this. Right now I think politics and bureaucracy has gotten in the way of doing the best for these people who are in distress."
Holland met with the mayor of Nelson earlier this week.
To hear the full interview with Nelson police chief Wayne Holland, click the audio labelled: Nelson police chief wants dedicated mental health car.
To hear the full interview with community manager for mental health and substance use Chris Huston, click the audio labelled: