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Victoria police and Island Health launch dedicated mental health response team

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Police in B.C.'s capital are pairing up with mental health workers to better respond to service calls involving people struggling with mental health and substance-use issues.

The new co-response team (CRT) partnership between Island Health and the Victoria Police Department officially launched Monday.

The program pairs officers with registered mental health clinicians to respond to calls involving mental health issues in Victoria and Esquimalt, B.C.

The service will operate seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"VicPD has long advocated for resources to help improve our response to mental health calls,” Victoria police Chief Del Manak said in a statement announcing the launch Monday.

"This is an initiative that will ensure the citizens of Victoria and Esquimalt have a high level of both mental health care and safety when officers respond to mental health calls, and that our frontline officers can remain focused on responding to calls where police should lead, such as preventing and investigating crime, and maintaining public safety."

Leah Hollins, board chair with Island Health, said the program aims to reduce harm to people in crisis and to the community overall.

"These services provide rapid interventions, connect people with services and aim to reduce a person’s involvement with emergency health services, the criminal justice system and law enforcement," she added.

Jennifer Whiteside, B.C.'s minister of mental health and addictions, said the new co-response team will support people who are in distress due to mental health or substance-use issues.

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