Two nurses to provide service for initial rollout
British Columbia is providing residents and communities in the northwestern part of the province with essential support for those facing mental health and substance use challenges.
The government has launched the new Northwest Specialized Response Team (SRT), which includes two registered nurses who provide support. They may accompany Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and other first responders to mental health and substance use-related calls. The nurses will also be able to support the transition if a patient needs to be admitted to a hospital.
“People in northern B.C. need and deserve access to vital addiction and mental health supports,” said Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions. “I’m grateful to see the co-operation of so many to create a system of care that meets the needs of people in each community.”
More than one-half (55 per cent) of employed individuals who died from an illicit drug overdose between 2016 and 2017 worked in the trades and transport industry, according to a report by the B.C. Coroner’s Service.
A pilot of the program in recent weeks has also seen the team work to provide follow-up visits for people who have experienced a recent overdose or require additional support or help accessing local services, including harm reduction, treatment and recovery supports.
The program is initially rolling out in Terrace, with two nurses on rotation seven days a week between noon and 8:30 p.m. The government hopes to further expand support to Smithers and Prince Rupert in the coming year.
The new service is a collaboration between Northern Health, the RCMP, B.C. Emergency Health Services, the First Nations Health Authority, local indigenous communities and municipalities. It is being funded $55.5 million previously announced to support expanded overdose prevention services.
“We value the collaboration with health authorities on addressing the often-complex needs of individuals with mental health and substance use challenges,” said Mike Robinson, acting officer in charge, Terrace RCMP. “While police have a critical role in responding to calls for assistance in a variety of circumstances, our desire is always to see individuals receive appropriate medical interventions and other supports that they may need.”