A pilot program that embeds a mental health nurse in the Vancouver Police Department to triage 911 calls has diverted an average of nine calls a day since it launched last year, according to an update from the health authority.
Vancouver Coastal Health presented to city council Tuesday outlining the progress made on a number of initiatives meant to “reduce incidents of police-only response to mental health crises.”
Since June of 2023, nurses working in the VPD’s operational command centre have triaged 1,374 calls and resolved 743 of them – or 54 per cent – with no police involvement.
“They’ve either been diverted to a more appropriate non-police response or directly resolved by the nurse on the phone in the moment,” said Bonnie Wilson, VCH’s community operations director.
In some cases, she explained, the health-care worker can access the person’s medical records to find out if they are connected to a care team, and to send that team to visit the person in crisis. In others, the nurse has done “problem-solving, trouble-shooting and de-escalation” directly with the person on the other end of the phone.
“We’re quite excited about the early results, and we want to continue to monitor and watch. But we do think that this is providing an appropriate response to the individuals who are receiving these interventions. And it’s also allowing the police resources to be spared from having to go and respond to these calls,” Wilson said.
To be connected to the nurse, VPD Deputy Chief Fiona Wilson told council, a person in crisis or person concerned about someone else does have to call 911 and ask for police – something she, the health officials present and councillors acknowledged can be a significant barrier.
“We would love to