Penticton RCMP Constable James Grandy is the mental health intervention coordinator, and media relations officer, with the local detachment. (Phil McLachlan - Western News)

Penticton RCMP Constable James Grandy is the mental health intervention coordinator, and media relations officer, with the local detachment. (Phil McLachlan - Western News)

Police in Penticton need help responding to mental health crises: RCMP Constable

“There needs to be both police and healthcare on the ground,” says Const. James Grandy

Intervening with someone experiencing a mental health crisis should not be the sole responsibility of the police, according to a mental health intervention officer with Penticton RCMP.

Penticton RCMP Constable, and Mental Health Intervention Coordinator, James Grandy uses the example of a call out for an RCMP officer to attend to a person in distress.

Upon arrival, the officer notices that the person is clearly experiencing a mental health crisis, and the officer is faced with a choice; leave them, in the hope they won’t harm themselves or others, or take them to the hospital, possibly against their will, which could put either party at risk, or create distrust between them.

After drawing this scenario Grandy posed the question; should police be solely responsible for intervening in these situations? According to Const. Grandy the answer simply put is no.

“You have officers who are not trained in psychiatry or counselling, trying to make that decision… I think, 100 per cent, having mental health professionals with police is extremely effective. But you cannot just have one or the other,” said Const. Grandy.

Currently, in Penticton, a program like the Police and Crisis Team (PACT), which consists of a dedicated psychiatric nurse and specially trained RCMP officer, does not exist. Earlier in July, Interior Health (IH) announced they would not be expanding this program.

In Kelowna, Grandy explained, this program has been extremely effective, reducing the number of people being apprehended against their will.

READ MORE: Interior Health will not expand Police and Crisis Team

RCMP officers, Grandy explained, are put in a tough position while responding to those with mental health issues.

“You have people saying, well, the police shouldn’t be going and doing those wellness checks, they shouldn’t be responding to those calls. Number one, there’s nobody else that’s going to do that, and in some cases, those people who are going through that crisis are either violent, or they’re at risk to themselves because they’re wanting to actually harm themselves.

“You’re not going to get a nurse or a social worker to go out there alone and try to mitigate that situation. They won’t be effective.”

Mental health intervention in Penticton

For years Const. Grandy has worked on the front lines in mental health intervention with the RCMP. Previously in Burnaby, Grandy spearheaded this program there, before filling that newly-created position in Penticton two years ago.

He works as a middle man between the police and the individuals officers deal within the community. His role assists those in crisis by pointing them toward the services they need.

That being said, Grandy is the only mental health intervention officer in the city of Penticton.

In the last four years, the Southeast District of the RCMP has seen an increase of 21 per cent in mental health check occurrences. In the first five months of 2020, the RCMP experienced 6,446 occurrences and in May the highest number ever of mental health check occurrences was recorded, totalling 1,456.

“The more times that police officers are trying to intervene with a mental health crisis, of course, you’re going to have times when it’s going to go south… we should be having more help with this problem,” said Grandy.

In a presentation to Penticton City Council on Tuesday, July 21, RCMP Superintendent Brian Hunter expressed his concern regarding those struggling with addictions and mental illnesses.

“It’s just very unfortunate a medical crisis is passed on to the laps of the police to deal with,” said Supt. Hunter to council.

Help needed

Grandy furthered this point.

“The health authority needs to provide that resource for us. It can’t just be, well, you go out there and you assess, and you bring them to the hospital and then we’ll deal with it. No, that’s clearly not working well in some cases. There needs to be both police and health care on the ground when these things are occurring.”

In the South Okanagan, Grandy believes there’s room for expansion.

“Given the climate out there, I think anything’s possible, and I think people are looking for a change, they’re looking for a new way of doing business. And I would say, so are we.”

Grandy said upper management has been vocal about the necessity for this collaboration between health professionals and police.

Supt. Hunter said Tuesday he planned on soon discussing with Interior Health how they can make each other’s jobs ‘more enhanced’ in the interest of the safety of the community.

He noted at council that some of those in the community struggling with addiction and their mental health, have received emergency COVID-19 support payments from the federal government, potentially fuelling their addiction.

Supt. Hunter also spoke in favour of the decriminalization of possession of drugs for simple use.

READ MORE: B.C. premier asks Trudeau to decriminalize illicit drug possession as deaths climb

Issues with addiction

Treatment, and rehabilitation, Supt. Hunter admitted is expensive, but is the key to help solve the addictions issue. Funding the services that clients need, he explained, could eventually lead to not needing the police as much.

“If you want all of this to go away, that’s where it (money) needs to go,” he said.

This issue is much more multifaceted than many think, Grandy explained.

“Our hope is that our local Interior Health will provide more resources for us going forward, so we’ll see where that goes, but that’s something we’re hoping for,” said Grandy. “Unfortunately we are just police officers, really, at the end of the day, we’re really designed to enforce criminal code and immediate public safety.

“We recognize we are being called to make a lot of tough decisions when it comes to people’s welfare on an everyday basis. In this day and age, we cannot work alone, and shouldn’t be working alone.”

In the past two months, RCMP have come under fire for how officers handle mental health checks. A woman in Kelowna and a woman in Chilliwack are accusing RCMP officers of assault during a wellness check.

The Kelowna woman, a UBC Okanagan student is now suing a Kelowna officer following the accusation.

IH responds

In response to a request for comment, IH says they are meeting with partners to discuss services that support people in a mental health crisis.

“We share a commitment to continue to work together with police and others on effective solutions for people who require urgent mental health support. We must look at the whole picture, including the specific needs of communities and how to make the best use of available resources,” reads a statement by the health authority.

“Meetings scheduled in the coming weeks, including discussions with RCMP at the regional level, will provide an opportunity to review what is already in place and what may be needed to support the largest number of people in need of mental health support.”

READ MORE: Crime in Penticton significantly down compared to same time last year

@PentictonNews
editor@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

RCMP

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Men in a work camp at Mile 46 on the Big Bend Highway. 
(Revelstoke Museum and Archives Photo 2259)
Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for June 17

Bumper strawberry crop, Mt. Logan climbers and unemployment relief

(File)
‘It’s not going to work here’: Revelstoke mayor to meet province over ambulance changes

There is a new system being introduced across the province called Scheduled On-Call (SOC)

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

The crosswalk is at Third Street and Mackenzie and was installed on June 17. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
Painting a rainbow: First Pride crosswalk installed in Revelstoke

‘It signals to the community that this city is inclusive,’ Mayor Gary Sulz

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control in Electoral Area D starting next year

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read