In May 2013, the New Westminster Police Department created a dedicated mental health intervention position. The mental health officer provides real-time support to frontline officers responding to in-progress crisis related calls. After police contacts, the mental health officer coordinates community resources to follow-up with citizens in need. The officer’s ongoing case load consists of residents in New Westminster who have severe mental illness and generate excessive or high risk police contacts.
In the past year, the Mental Health Unit has received over one thousand referred files. Working closely with community partners (mental health clinicians, probation officers, forensics, crown counsel and other service providers) strategies are developed to support and reduce a client’s incidents of crisis. As a result, citizens of New Westminster receive the support they need, further reducing their reliance on emergency service providers such as police, ambulance and hospitals.
Secondary roles for the mental health officer include improving mental health training for front line police officers, reducing hospital wait times for patients apprehended under the Mental Health Act, and enhancing community partnerships.