The Yukon’s only specialized mobile mental health and suicide risk response unit — pairing a registered psychiatric nurse with an RCMP officer — has responded to more than 100 calls with no arrests and 12 individuals apprehended since it rolled out in the fall, according to data from the department of Health and Social Services.
Car 867 is a police vehicle that responds to RCMP calls for service and referrals to people experiencing mental health crisis.
In an email from the Yukon’s department of Health and Social Services, between when the unit launched on Oct. 31, 2022, and March 9, Car 867 has responded to 112 calls, all of which have been related to mental health. The outcomes of the files vary, including cases of apprehension, referrals to care from Health and Social Services and non-government organizations, safety planning and working with the clients in real time.
In the email, RCMP said the officer-nurse combination has been a benefit to providing support to individuals in need, allowing for better care and outcomes.
“The RCMP officer is trained in de-escalation techniques and can provide safety in a crisis situation, while the [registered psychiatric nurse] can provide clinical assessment, crisis intervention and referral to appropriate services,” police said.
“By connecting people to additional services or working with services they already utilize, this approach seeks to bridge gaps in service delivery, while providing a more fulsome support to clients. The goal being a more complete assessment for clients, leading to more complete access to supports and prevention of clients ending up in repeat crisis.”
Car 867 can spend time being present and assessing a person’s needs to make referrals.
“The goal of Car 867 has generally not been to attend calls that would lead to an arrest, as the mandate is to respond to calls for service related to mental health crises and suicide risks. If a person is taken into custody over the course of their involvement with Car 867, it will more than likely be because the person has been apprehended (not arrested) under section 8 of the Yukon Mental Health Act,” RCMP said.
“Upon being apprehended, the individual must be immediately taken to a doctor or health care facility by the police officer, who must then provide information about the reason for apprehension and maintain custody until the individual is assessed by a doctor. While Car 867, a mobile crisis response team, aims to divert individuals from hospitalization, where appropriate, if the officer determines in partnership with a nurse that the person needs to be in custody, it will usually be because of an apprehension under the [act] rather than an arrest.”
The health department spokesperson said as of March 13 the vehicle runs Monday to Friday, except holidays, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The spokesperson said the plan is for the program to operate seven days a week when fully staffed.
“While the RCMP officer attached to Car 867 has the authority to arrest and apprehend, the focus of Car 867 is to provide enhanced service and care to individuals experiencing mental wellness struggles,” the spokesperson said.
“As a result, Car 867 has not made any arrests since starting its operations.”
Yukon NDP Leader Kate White told reporters during a scrum in the legislature on the first day of the spring sitting, following the release of the Yukon government’s $1.94-billion budget, that Car 867 is “great”, but there needs to be more than one team doing that work in the territory.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org