The Victoria Police Department and Island Health have started a new program to improve mental health responses in Victoria and Esquimalt.
A co-response team (CRT) was launched Monday (Jan. 30), pairing a police officer with a registered mental health clinician to respond to mental health calls.
“The CRT allows us to safely get medical professionals right to the front line as a first response,” Victoria Police Chief Del Manak said. “The officers selected for the CRT have been specifically chosen for their care and their experience and have specialized training in responding to and supporting persons through deescalation and client-centered, trauma-informed approaches. The clinical professionals on the CRT have also had specialized training and I commend them for taking on this role.”
“The co-response team will resolve mental health situations collaboratively and in the least-intrusive way when a police response is required,” said Tasha McKelvey, Islands Health’s director for acute access and crisis response services for the South Island. “Our trained mental health-care staff may assist with de-escalation and will seek the involvement of friends and family to help support the person and determine if hospital care or other options are needed.”
VicPD’s budget includes funding for two police positions, and the health authority has received funding from the Ministry of Health for the two mental health workers for the team.
“We recognize in many cases that a person in mental distress does not require police intervention,” Manak said. “Often they are best served by a medical professional, but there is a requirement to keep them and the people around them safe.”