The City of Vancouver will be providing $2.8 million in funding to the local health authority to bolster the city’s mental health services, officials announced Sunday.
Major Ken Sim made the announcement at a news conference, saying most of the money will be used to hire 58 mental health workers and allow for the expansion of existing programs, including the VPD’s Car87/88 program.
For decades, this service has responded to mental health calls by sending a two-person team pairing a police officer in plain clothes with a mental health professional from Vancouver Coastal Health.
“This investment, along with the funding allocation from the council to hire the 100 police officers, will serve to bolster Vancouver’s frontline mental health and public safety response,” Sim said, adding that more funding will be made available in future years, eventually reaching a a total of $8 million.
The mayor was joined by a number of provincial and city officials including Premier David Eby and Vancouver Police Department Chief Adam Palmer.
One of the key plans in Sim’s platform was a promise to hire 100 new officers and 100 mental health nurses to expand partnerships between police and health-care workers to respond to mental health emergencies. Sim, who was elected several months ago, said he would make this happen on “day one.”
Eby said he was in attendance to “recognize when a city steps up” to find ways to address complex issues.
“We want our communities to be safer and we want our communities to be healthier,” Ebay said. “People in our province and across North America have seen our streets change for the worse after the pandemic.”
VCH’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Patricia Daly said the health authority will start recruiting once the funding is approved, with new staff expected to start work by the end of the calendar year. Despite staff shortages in the health sector, he said his team is confident of being able to fill the new positions.
“We have been successful in recruiting nurses and other mental health workers who are passionate about working in the downtown eastside and inner city and our team believes we can do that for this program as well,” she said.
Council is set to vote on motion to approve the grant on Feb. 14.