Chilliwack’s new ‘Mobile Integrated Crisis Response Team’ is ready to hit the streets.
Chilliwack is one of four communities in the Lower Mainland launching an MICR team including Abbotsford, Burnaby, and Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, according to the announcement Nov. 16.
The crisis-response team is a police officer partnered with a mental-health nurse. The team is dispatched when there’s a 911 call for someone in mental health or substance-related crisis.
“When people are in distress because of a mental-health emergency and they call police, we need to take the right steps to provide them with the care they need to stay safe and meet them where they are at,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.
It means those in crisis can be met with “appropriate, compassionate and comprehensive care,” she said.
The program saw a partnership between RCMP and Fraser Health to establish two-person teams with a response that is “offering a clear path to get the help they need, supporting them on their road to wellness.”
Minister Whiteside was in Chilliwack in July 2023 to announce that Chilliwack was one of several B.C. communities selected to get a crisis response team.
Mayor Ken Popove said at the summer announcement by Whiteside that it was “welcome news,” for Chilliwack and praised the collaborative approach of MICR program partners for “aggressively” taking on these social challenges.
“Chilliwack has been advocating for this type of service for a few years now,” Popove said, adding it falls in line “with our community action plan and mental-health efforts.”
One in five interactions with police in B.C. involves someone with a mental-health disorder, according to provincial stats. That’s why the central element of these teams is the officer joined by a specially trained mental-health crisis worker.
Both provincial MLAs cite the need for this type of response and have heard from Chilliwack residents about on the topic.
Chilliwack MLA Dan Coulter sees them as key since they can offer crisis intervention and community safety, while supporting a “more compassionate” response for people in mental-health emergencies.
For Kelli Paddon, MLA for Chilliwack-Kent: “We have heard from folks in Chilliwack how important supports are in a crisis, and these teams are a critical part of our work to build safer communities and ensure people in crisis get connected to the supports they need.”
The top cop for the region says these teams can deliver better outreach.
“By amalgamating police response with specialized mental health crisis workers concentrating on mental health and addiction, MICR Teams will serve the community by providing more outreach coverage and more subject matter expertise to crisis response and intervention, while reducing the need for frontline police response,” said Asst. RCMP commissioner Maureen Levy, commander RCMP Lower Mainland District.
The minister for policing sees it as strengthening response capacity.
“When police officers work alongside mental-health experts, it best serves those who are in a moment of crisis or distress,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “By combining front-line worker’s expertise, MICR teams are strengthening the ability to respond to public safety challenges, better protecting communities, while connecting people in crisis to the appropriate services they need, when they need them.”
The expansion will see MICR teams in nine communities across B.C: the four announced on Nov. 16, as well as teams in the Westshore, Prince Rupert, Squamish, Penticton and Vernon. Teams are already operating in Kamloops, Kelowna, Prince George, Fort St. John, Richmond, Surrey, Vancouver, North Shore, Nanaimo and Victoria.
The MICR expansion is a $3 million part of the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions’ $1-billion investment to urgently expand access to mental-health and addictions care, including increasing early intervention and prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery services, supportive and complex care housing, and more.