B.C. Minister of Addictions and Mental Health Jennifer Whiteside came to Penticton on July 19 to speak to the coming Car 40 program, which is expected in the fall of 2023. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)

VIDEO: Minister of Mental Health and Addictions talks Car 40 in Penticton

Penticton’s top cop also spoke to the mental-health program coming this fall

The highly demanded Car 40 program in Penticton is expected to be up and running by the fall of 2023.

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jennifer Whiteside joined Mayor Julius Bloomfield in Penticton to speak to the recent announcement of funding for the mobile integrated crisis response teams that will be rolling out in municipalities across B.C. including Penticton.

“We’ve seen and certainly the municipality of Penticton already had an opportunity to see the success of this program in different communities where we see an intervention that is not a police response when someone’s in a mental health crisis,” said Whiteside. “Those teams that are active in other communities have demonstrated just through the number of calls they take — in excess of 100 calls a month — where we are really using our mental health approach and providing the kind of care and support that individual needs.”

The mobile integrated response team program (Car 40-type programs) pairs a dedicated health-care professional with an RCMP officer to respond to mental-health-related calls instead of a standard police response.

Penticton RCMP deals with an excessive number of calls for mental health-related issues per-capita compared to other communities in the Okanagan, with an average of six calls a day in 2021.

“You know, a good measure of success for myself will be overall, the number of mental health calls that we receive goes down once this program is initiated,” said Penticton RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter in attendance at the press conference.

“But more importantly for the individual, if for a given period of time we were called to assist a client, say 100 times in that year. If after this program is implemented, we run the statistics and that same client in the next year, maybe our calls for service related to that individual is, let’s say down to eight, that’s a huge win.”

The program has been highly sought after by Penticton city council for the last two years. Council members have looked and pointed to the success of the program in other communities in calls to Interior Health and the provincial government for localizing it.

In addition to dealing with the immediate needs of individuals in a mental health crisis, the team will also work to connect those individuals with services and care afterward.

“This is not the silver bullet that’s going to solve the problem,” said Bloomfield. “But it is a vital tool that we’re going to be putting in the toolbox to deal with the problems that are facing people on the street.”

The program is expected to come online in the fall, as the Minister said that the positions for the health-care professionals still need to be posted and filled.

“The city is ready, the RCMP are ready, Interior Health is ready,” said Bloomfield.” So I think that this is going to roll out very quickly this year.”

READ MORE: Penticton is finally getting the Car 40 program

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

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