A mental health crisis team can get there fast in Nanaimo’s Car 54.
The full-time mental health mobile program, a joint initiative between Island Health and the Nanaimo RCMP launched last fall, enhances services for people in mental health or substance-use crises, according to a joint press release.
The program teams up Lianne Rear, a registered nurse from Island Health’s mental health and substance-use program, and Const. Josh Waltman, Nanaimo RCMP’s mental health liaison officer, who attend urgent calls in an unmarked police vehicle to support people in crisis.
Car 54 is the latest crisis car collaboration between Island Health and the RCMP on the Island – partnerships between police and health-care providers are also in place in Duncan-North Cowichan and on the south Island.
The program’s goal is to resolve mental health crisis situations collaboratively and in the least intrusive way, the release noted. That might mean verbal de-escalation, involvement of friends and family, and determining if hospital care or other options are needed, such as referrals to community resources and supports.
“We don’t overdo it if we don’t have to. We try to preserve some privacy and dignity,” Rear said. “It’s about trying to find the most client-centred approach – that’s my lens.”
Waltman estimates since Car 54 launched, the duo has reviewed and acted on hundreds of client files.
“Lianne can do an in-depth, thorough mental health assessment while I look after the safety concerns and the risk concerns and make sure everyone is safe,” he said.
According to Nanaimo RCMP Supt. Lisa Fletcher, the Car 54 program will greatly enhance the detachment’s overall response to mental health calls.
“We have heard from the families of those in crisis, the police officers responding and our community partners that more is expected from the police,” she said. “This initiative shows our commitment to improving our response and working with our partners to address mental health challenges in our community.”
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said the program is part of the “full suite of services Nanaimo requires to help meet the needs of people experiencing mental health and or substance-abuse issues.”