Prince George will now begin to look at expanding the Car 60 program, a mobile crisis response unit that responds to calls involving emotional and mental health issues, consisting of a uniform RCMP member and clinical nurse, specializing in mental health.
At last night’s (July 27) regular council meeting, city council unanimously supported Coun. Kyle Sampson’s motion to direct administration to explore expanding the program and bring a report back to council outlining its budget implications.
“Over the years, we’ve seen over 100 per cent increase in calls from 2015 to now, mental health-related calls to the Prince George RCMP,” said Sampson, when the motion came up for discussion.
“I also think the RCMP are often tasked to deal with things that are outside of the scope of their abilities and that is no fault of their own, it’s just based on what society has passed down on them with an expectation to handle, but I think we can do better.”
Developed in 2015, the program is a partnership between the Northern Health Authority and the Prince George RCMP detachment which offer on-site emotional and mental health assessments, crisis intervention and referrals to appropriate services.
“We need more mental health services in our community and this is just one opportunity to have those services enhanced,” said Coun. Murry Krause.
“I support administration looking into this further, but it may indeed mean that Northern Health would require additional resources to indeed do that.”
Sampson’s motion also included a recommendation to direct the Intergovernmental Resolutions Committee to bring back correspondence to council requesting further aid from the provincial and federal levels of government.
“The overall arching connection of this, is it needs to be done across the province,” said Coun. Frank Everitt, with many councilors pointing out the provincial scope of the program.
“It really reinforces the discussions that I have had around the province with other mayors of other municipalities about the opioid crisis, the mental illness issues that we are seeing on our streets, the homelessness issues and the fact that Car60 is a proven commodity and it does a great job,” added Mayor Lyn Hall.
“If we can generate interest at this level and continue it through to the North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) and Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) it will help us not only locally, but across the province.”
In a social media post following the meeting, Sampson said that Prince George has an opportunity to be a leader among other municipalities within B.C. and across Canada with innovative steps towards bettering the community through this program.
“I look forward to working on this further with the full support of council.”
Downtown Prince George also submitted a letter in support of the expansion of the program ahead of Monday's council meeting.