Kelowna is not waiting for Interior Health to respond to the crisis | infonews


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October 25, 2022 – 7:00 pm

Kelowna Mayor-elect Tom Dyas, Penticton City Council and outgoing Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian have all called for more police teams and nurses to deal with mental health crises in their cities.

This, for at least two years, went nowhere as Interior Health refused to fund more medical staff for the programs (called Car 40 in Kamloops and PACT – Police and Crisis Teams – in Kelowna).

That’s not to say they haven’t stopped trying, but a team has now been assembled in Kelowna to look at different civilian models of dealing with mental health and other issues.

“Over the summer, we worked with a group that did literature reviews and made phone calls to models we think were importable to Kelowna,” said Darren Caul, Kelowna Community Safety Director. at “These are models that we have looked at all over North America. The most commonly cited model is the CAHOOTS model in Eugene, Oregon.

CAHOOTS stands for Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets and has been in place for over 30 years.

Eugene has an estimated population of nearly 180,000 in 2022, so it’s not much larger than Kelowna.

Rather than pairing a police officer with a mental health worker, each CAHOOTS van (provided by the city) is staffed with a doctor and an experienced emergency worker.

It provided 31 hours of service each day in 2018 at a cost of $798,000 (USD) funded by the city through its police department.

It was shipped and arrived at 16,479 service calls that year.

Although it diverts 3-8% of police calls, it is more than a crisis response team.

It offers a wide range of other services from suicide counseling and prevention to substance abuse management, bereavement, non-emergency medical care and mediation.

As a result of the summer’s research, the City of Kelowna has created a government and community action team that will assess the various options before making a presentation to city council.

The effort stems from a key “action item” in the city’s public safety plan passed by council in April.

The new team has only met once, so there will be no time to invest in the 2023 city budget, which means no new programs are likely to launch next year. .

Given the newness of the team and the fact that a new city council is about to be sworn in, Caul cannot say how long the process might take or what public consultation, if any, will be included. .

CAHOOTS is different from the newly expanded peer-assisted care teams in the Lower Mainland that were spearheaded by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

It’s more of a response team, at this stage, made up of a health professional and a peer counselor trained and funded by the province on a trial basis.

READ MORE: The business case for removing police from mental health calls in Okanagan, Kamloops

This isn’t necessarily the model advocated by the Canadian Mental Health Association of Kelowna, but its CEO, Mike Gawliuk, is working with the city on a model that works best for Kelowna.

“Normally the process to get there is a lot of community consultation to find a model that works for the community,” he told “Kelowna has the (Police And Crisis Team). There are also mental health crisis response services through Interior Health, so it would take community engagement to identify where a peer-assisted care team would exist in the existing system – what space it would occupy. We can consider filling hours of service where others are unavailable and responding to crises that present a lower risk of harm or violence and doing so in a way that can effectively de-escalate and de-stress the situation.

The Kelowna RCMP responded to 3,100 calls last year that had a mental health component. If 3-8% were diverted to a civilian team, this would translate to approximately 90-250 fewer responses from the police.

READ MORE: Kelowna’s top cop calls for more mental health resources to help those in crisis

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