The Car 60 program, a partnership between Northern Health and the Prince George RCMP, is receiving positive reviews a year after it started service in Prince George.
The Urgent Community Response Team (Car 60) was officially launched in April 2015. Based on a similar program in Surrey, B.C., Car 60 includes a team of Northern Health nurses — who specialize in mental health and substance use services — with plain-clothes RCMP officers. The team members respond in an unmarked police car to incidents involving people with apparent mental health or substance-use issues who are in crisis.
“We know that the number of people interacting with police and the health care system that have mental health and or substance use problems is growing, and we want to ensure that the resources are in place to support these individuals in need,” said Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount. "Car 60 is one of the innovative tools that provides a more appropriate response and also allows the RCMP to deploy their resources more effectively."
“The Car 60 program is a perfect example of a partnership that identified a need for people who require immediate services, and implemented a system that works to address that need within a timely fashion,” said Mike Morris, MLA for Price George-Mackenzie.
In the past, general duty police officers responding to such calls would have to spend several hours at the hospital while the individual brought in was assessed and treated by health care professionals. General duty officers now respond to a call, assess the situation and, if it involves people with mental health or substance-use issues, will call in Car 60. The nurse and police officer together decide if the person in crisis needs to access local community resources or taken to hospital for immediate medical attention.
In 2015, Prince George RCMP responded to 1,037 mental health incidents, a three per cent increase in such calls over the previous year. The Car 60 team responded to approximately 600 of those mental health incidents from April 2015 to December 2015, or 66 calls per month. Of the 66 calls per month, an average of 16 individuals required intensive mental health and substance use support and were apprehended under the Mental Health Act. An average of 11.4 clients of those apprehended ended up being admitted to hospital.
“This program was partially implemented because it was identified that the RCMP needed support when they attended mental health and substance-related calls. We are working with them in partnership to ensure members of our community get the supports they need,” says Aaron Bond, Director, Specialized Services, Northern Interior. “The new Car 60 program is part of the strategy to improve access to care for residents in Prince George. This program will see people in need connecting with those they know and trust in the health care system for supportive follow-up care.”
The program is designed based on a successful model in Surrey, B.C. Northern Health and the RCMP met with the program managers in Surrey to understand their systems, and the mental health and substance use professionals and RCMP plain clothed member received training from the team in the Lower Mainland.
“The Car 60 Program has provided a more thorough first response and after care intervention for these clients. From a strategic and innovative perspective, it has provided wrap-around care that goes beyond putting a Band-Aid on the momentary crisis,” said Superintendent Warren Brown, Officer in Charge of the Prince George RCMP. “Up until the Car 60 Program, when a crisis occurred in these peoples' lives, our response was simple yet inadequate; stop the crisis and transport them either to jail or the local hospital. From a community perspective, I believe this is a better use of our resources as it identifies root causes.”
“We have more time to take in the scenario and gather collateral information to support what the individual needs. For example, do they need intervention from a local mental health team or hospitalization?” says Const. Sonja Blom. “We’ve received overwhelmingly positive support from the community, general duty RCMP, and Northern Health staff.”
Northern Health continues to work with community partners across northern B.C. to identify opportunities to enhance mental health and substances use supports.