FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Fort St. John RCMP hopes to have its new Car 60 program on the streets this spring.

A partnership formed with Northern Health last year will partner officers with nurses to respond to mental health and substance abuse calls.

Two nurses from the community are currently being cleared to work with RCMP, and though no definitive date has been set for the rollout, it’s hoped the program will now launch by late May.

“I’m hoping that we’re going to have some good success with this, as it’s been successful pretty much everywhere else,” said Detachment Commander Insp. Tony Hanson, who oversaw a Car 60 program in Prince George. “At some point, maybe in another year or so, I might petition the city for an additional member, but that’s yet to be seen.”

Nurses will be available on an as-needed basis, and would not ride full time with the RCMP, he said. Gear is being ordered for the nurses, including body armour.

“We’re doing sort of a hybridized unit where they will have their shifts and they will be available so that when we get a call that requires their expertise we will notify them and pick them up, and they will go to the call with the member,” said Hanson.

Hanson says officers aren’t trained social workers and never asked to be, and remain a last resort when residents have no one else to turn for help.

“Aside from the fact I’d like to have people who are specialized in mental health, for the betterment of everybody, these are hugely time consuming. Once a member makes the decision that a person needs to be seen by physician and they apprehend them, we could be into this for three to six to eight hours, depending on how busy the physicians in the emergency room are,” he said.

“One of the large benefits of this, aside from on-site care from medical professionals, is bypassing a lot of those delays, which allows the person to have better treatment or care that’s more on point.”