Saanich Coun. Susan Brice and Mayor Fred Haynes are calling on the province to develop new solutions for emergency response to mental health crises with the consideration of a potential new 911 category. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Saanich Coun. Susan Brice and Mayor Fred Haynes are calling on the province to develop new solutions for emergency response to mental health crises with the consideration of a potential new 911 category. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

UPDATED: Saanich council calls for new solutions to mental health emergencies

Shifting response from police to trained mental health team the best option, mayor says

When someone having a mental health emergency calls 911, it’s often police who respond but Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes and Coun. Susan Brice are calling on the province to develop new solutions to better serve those in crisis.

Council received a report from Haynes and Brice March 1, recommending that the district write to the province advocating for the creation of a separate, adequately funded emergency response for mental health calls. This, the pair said, will address the volume and variety of mental health emergencies effectively without increasing the burden on current 911 and 811 call systems. Council voted unanimously in favour of the recommendations.

READ ALSO: Civilians perform safe CPR on cardiac arrest patient in Saanich park amid pandemic

Currently, the response to mental health-related calls is “police-centric” and while they are well-trained, they don’t have advanced medical knowledge, Haynes explained. An integrated mental health team with “trauma-informed protocols” could provide complex care for folks struggling with mental health- or addiction-related crises.

Emergency assistance from such a team could possibly be accessed through a separate 911 category or a new number entirely, he said.

In Saanich, police already take part in an Integrated Mobile Crisis Team (IMCT) and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team which are comprised of officers, nurses, social workers and other mental health professionals. Together, they respond to mental health emergencies and connect patients to support services but their hours are limited.

The Ministry of Health would need to spearhead such a program with input from professionals and impacted families for the most effective results, said Brice, a former B.C. minister of mental health and addictions. The province has already identified mental illness and addiction as health issues, but there remains a gap in emergency response.

“We’re hoping the province will see fit to help find a solution” that combines medical attention with education, she said, adding that a specific mental health emergency response would also help reduce stigma.

READ ALSO: Crisis calls in B.C. still climbing despite hope brought by rollout of COVID-19 vaccine

The Saanich Police Department would support a properly resourced response model “that provides better community and medical supports for people living with mental health issues,” said Const. Markus Anastasiades, public information officer. It would allow mental health calls with no public safety implications to be diverted from police – who have long been left to “fill the void created by funding cuts in social and medical welfare systems.”

While officers are trained in crisis intervention, they cannot replace proper medical care, he said.

Haynes and Brice emphasized that the IMCT and ACT are effective but limited in terms of resources so additional funding from the province would allow these models to be expanded.

Pending council’s support, the matter will also be forwarded to the province’s Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act.


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

District of Saanichmental health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map shows new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 11-17. (BCCDC image)
Island Health says fresh COVID-19 cases down in most of its communities

Nanaimo sees its fewest new COVID-19 cases since mid January

(Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria marathon clothing drive targets 10,000 pounds of clothing

The clothing drive runs Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 pm.

Volunteers with the Esquimalt Farmers Market will be on hand at Bullen Field to direct attendees and clarify public health protocols. The market runs Thursdays now through Sept. 16, from 4:30-7:30 p.m. (Facebook/Esquimalt Farmers Market)
Esquimalt Farmers Market continues tonight at Bullen Field

Award-winning market features farm-fresh products, food trucks, COVID-19 protocols for safety

Victoria’s bylaw restricting sheltering in parks won’t apply to those who accept indoor housing when it comes back into effect on May 1. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria bylaw restricting sheltering in parks won’t apply to those who accept indoor housing

The bylaw banning daytime camping in public parks will be reinstated on May 1

Island Health has reported a COVID-19 exposure at Pacific Christian Elementary School on April 12. (Google Streetview/Screenshot)
COVID-19 exposure reported at Saanich elementary school

Pacific Christian Elementary School experienced exposure on April 12

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Have rising prices caused you to give up hope of buying a home?

Do you have a spare 50 grand or so kicking around (have… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Police executed a search warrant at the Devils Army Clubhouse on Petersen road in Campbell River on August 10, 2017.
Murder trial: Victim left to conclude out-of-court settlement on the day he disappeared

Trial of Richard Alexander in death of John Dillon Brown continues in B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on property

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. sees 1,006 COVID-19 cases Thursday, ‘alarming’ 502 in hospital

Vaccine bookings for people aged 60 and older set to start

Shannon Zirnhelt, from left, her son Lockie, 3, Julia Zirnhelt, 13, and Ella Krus, 13, co-founders of Third Planet Crusade are featured in a music video set to air on Earth Day, April 22, 2021. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
B.C.-made music video launched in time for Earth Day 2021

Singer songwriter Shannon Zirnhelt worked with Third Planet Crusade on the project in the Cariboo

Most Read