Car 87 – Mental Health Car
VPD officers have been partnering with mental health professionals to provide assessments and intervention for people living with mental illness since 1978.
Today, specially-trained officers in plainclothes team up with psychiatric nurses seven days a week and respond to requests from patrol officers and Assertive Outreach Team members for mental health assistance. They determine the most appropriate action in each case, which can include immediate referrals for community-based mental health services or emergency intervention.
The program reduces the need for patrol response and unnecessary hospital admissions, while connecting people in crisis to the appropriate services in the community.
Car 87 staff often provide phone and outreach assessments, support to clients and families, administration of medications, and referrals for expedited screening and assessment at Vancouver Coastal Health’s Access and Assessment Centre.
The Access & Assessment Centre operates a telephone crisis line where nurses help callers in crisis. Car 87 can be reached by calling the Centre’s 24-hour crisis line at (604) 675-3700 or 9-1-1.
In 2011, the Vancouver Police Board and the Boards of Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care came together and created Project Link to address existing issues related to people living with mental health conditions, and improve health services and criminal justice system outcomes. The goal was to move from a crisis response model to community-based case management, and prevent individual crises from happening in the first place.
This collaborative approach includes sharing information and coordinating efforts, which results in evidence-based decision making at a strategic level. This helps clients receive the best care possible from healthcare and public safety supports where necessary.
Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Teams
A small group of clients have repeated and frequent use of the emergency medical system and extensive contact with police. They also encounter barriers to housing and employment. It makes living in the community challenging.
Some of these challenges are addressed through Assertive Community Treatment teams. The teams provide full-service mental health programs and “wrap-around” care for clients with a history of complex mental health issues. The teams help clients transition to traditional community-based care. Teams are 10 to 12 people, and include police officers, nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, and vocational counsellors.
The first ACT teams were created by Vancouver Coastal Health in 2011, and included two full-time VPD officers working with the program by 2012. Vancouver Police officers provide critical support to healthcare providers so they can safely give medications in the community, and officers provide context and information during ongoing assessments. Officers also help clients navigate the criminal justice system. Many often go with clients to court.
ACT teams may also assist clients with finding long-term 24/7 health care, support with life skills, job training, assistance with housing, and help maintaining physical and mental wellness.
Assertive Outreach Team (AOT)
While ACT address the most high-risk, high-needs clients through long-term, wrap-around services, the Assertive Outreach Team (AOT) provides short-term bridging services to clients to help them transition from hospital or jail to longer-term community-based services, such as ACT.
VPD officers collaborate with Vancouver Coastal Health psychiatrists, nurses, and clinical supervisors to reduce incidents of violence and self-harm, prevent further deterioration in quality of life, and reduce involvement with the criminal justice system.
In 2014, statistics were showing that violent and unprovoked assaults committed by people living with untreated moderate to severe mental health conditions were on the rise. Given that AOT provides short-term bridging services for clients who are not yet stabilized and/or connected to a primary health service provider, VPD officers play an active role providing community safety support and crisis de-escalation. Officers help ensure the safety and security of both the client and healthcare providers. The officers also provide information to help clients navigate the system.
Many clients are not mandated to receive treatment, despite their need. The program centres on increasing the wellbeing of the client through pre-crisis intervention and connections to treatment.
Early Warning System
VPD’s early warning system identifies people at risk of experiencing a mental health crisis so appropriate resources can intervene. Members look at a person’s history with the police, their prior mental health apprehensions, violent incidents over two years, and police incidents involving mental health, as well as a history of violence within the past two years. The information is found in police briefing reports and in the Police Records Information Management Environment (PRIME) database.
AOT members determine the need for support and intervention, and help prevent people living with mental illness from cycling through the justice system. It also helps prevent crime.
VPD Mental Health Unit
The VPD Mental Health Unit works to reduce the number of people cycling through the criminal justice system as a result of untreated mental health disorders. The Unit works with Vancouver Coastal Health Mental Health clinical staff. Together, they ensure a coordinated response.