Quesnel RCMP Staff Sargent Darren Dodge isn’t sure the unit’s Mobile Crisis Intervention Team should be a thing in the future, but in the meantime, he’s loving the work they’re doing.
The unit, made up of Const. Josh Nutley and Northern Health psychiatric nurse Christine Chase, visits those needing support twice a week.
“I know people will say, ‘is this the role for police?’ and I don’t know,” Dodge said. “At the end of the day, in the future, perhaps there will be more mental health outreach workers, but as the detachment commander it is a fantastic use of one of my members.”
The unit is different than other mental health focused units in bigger centres, as Dodge noted he wanted to take a proactive approach.
“The partnership between (Nutley) and (Chase) has just been fantastic, they’ve been well received,” he said. “Dealing with a person at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, nice and calm, is way better than my members having to deal with a person at three in the morning when they’re suffering a mental health crisis.”
The Quesnel RCMP responded to more than 1,200 mental health calls in 2020, a number on the rise.
“I can’t say 2020 was substantially higher than 2019, but every year the last several years has been trending higher,” Dodge said.
Another bonus for Dodge is when police respond to a crisis call at three in the morning, they have an established relationship.
“Police work is a 24/7 business, and the mental health crisis is a 24/7 business,” he said. “Moving forward, there’s going to have to be more thought put into what kind of agencies are working 24/7. Mental health doesn’t happen just 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.”
The MCIT was established in May of 2019, and one day a week of service quickly turned into double. The team started after a city-wide committee for caring for people with addictions, and is operated in partnership with Northern Health.
While police may be taking a step back from mental health calls, Dodge said as long as police are the most available agency, they need to be prepared for these kinds of encounters.
“We answer our phone 24/7, 365,” Dodge said. “We are the agency people call for help, and we help when they call.”
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