04/09/2015 06:12 EDT | Updated 06/09/2015 05:59 EDT

Port Moody police to get dedicated mental health officer

The Port Moody Police Department in Metro Vancouver will soon have an officer dedicated to helping people with mental health issues.

"Even though we're a small city, over the last nine years, we've seen an 80, 85 per cent increase in mental health-related calls," Chief Const. Chris Rattenbury told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

Rattenbury says police are often the first people who respond to someone in a mental health crisis. However, officers are not social workers, and a more proactive approach is needed.

"We have been quite good overall at being reactive to these situations, but we just felt there was a more effective way to do business, to actually be more proactive."

Extra training and new duties

Vancouver, Surrey and New Westminster police agencies also have similar mental health units, said Rattenbury.

Police are all required to receive training in crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, but the new mental health officer in Port Moody will receive additional training.

If the officer is on duty when a mental health-related call comes in, he or she will respond. If not, the officer will follow up and liaise with local agencies like Fraser Health Authority and Tri-Cities Mental Health.

To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled: Port Moody police to get mental health officer