Car 60 program launching next week

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Fort St. John RCMP’s Car 60 unit will be up and running next week, according to Detachment Commander Insp. Tony Hanson.

Speaking to the District of Taylor council on Monday for their annual update, Hansen described the program and confirmed that it was about to launch after a year of work.

Car 60 units are partnerships between police and mental health workers, often psychiatric nurses, who “work hand in glove” with the officers and attend mental health calls alongside them, according to Hansen’s presentation to the District council.

Where bigger centres have full Car 60 teams, the partnership in Fort St. John will not hire extra officers and instead operate as a hybrid unit.

A psychiatric nurse with Northern Health, a member of the intensive case management team with a background in addiction, will be joining the Car 60 team for the start of the partnership, Hansen said. He has also discussed plans to grow the program after its first year elsewhere.

According the RCMP in a press release, the person working with Car 60 is a mental health worker. Northern Health called the person a mental health clinician in this tweet.

The worker will be available during the day on their shift to attend calls, according to the inspector. “So if we get a call,” Hansen explained, “One of the general duty members, the frontline members, will call her and say, ‘this is what we have.’ They’ll pick her up. She will come to the call.”

The inclusion of mental health professionals brings their experience to the field, as well as their access to healthcare tools like patient histories and medications and their trained ability to communicate with a patient. “She speaks the right language, with her knowledge—and she speaks the right language with their physicians,” Hansen said.

Car 60 also improves policing in other areas by keeping officers “on the road.” Previously, an officer would bring a mental health patient to an emergency room and wait with them to be seen by a physician—taking RCMP officers out of commission for hours at a time.

Keeping officers in the field and using the expertise that mental health professionals bring to it are key parts of Car 60 programs, and have been for the decade that other detachments have been using them. Hansen oversaw a Car 60 operation in Prince George before his arrival in the Peace region.

“These units attend these [mental health] calls instead of just sending frontline police officers,” Hansen explained. “We are not mental health workers. We are not social workers.”

That recognition of a limitation police face and the need it creates for communities is the purpose that Car 60 serves.

“So we formed these units and they’ve been very successful in deescalating, in successful outcomes.”

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