Response team for people facing mental health, substance use challenges coming to Northwest B.C.

specialized response team

The B.C. government is rolling out a "Specialized Response Team" in the Northwest to help people facing mental health and substance use-related challenges, and Terrace will be the first city to receive its services.

The team is made up of a rotating pair of nurses who provide support to – and may accompany – RCMP and other first responders on calls related to mental health and substance use.

A pilot program of the team is already underway, and that program has seen the team do follow-up visits for people who have experienced a recent overdose or who require additional support.

"We've recognized the need for integrated and collaborative approaches between first responders and health-care providers, to better respond to people experiencing mental health or substance use concerns, and to create timely connections to appropriate services," said Clare Hart, Northern Health’s northwest director for specialized services.

"These partnerships improve the continuity of care and reduce gaps for vulnerable clients."

The team is a collaboration between various governments, health authorities, the RCMP and BC Emergency Health Services. Funding for it comes from a previously-announced set of funds that committed over 55 million to supporting 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, Terrace RCMP acting officer in charge.

"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."

The province's goal is to further expand the program to Smithers and Prince Rupert in the coming year.