Cpl. Brigitte Goguen is Nanaimo RCMP’s new mental health liaison officer. The position is in response to a growing number of mental health-related calls, which have gone from 1,313 in 2014 to 2,224 last year. CHRIS BUSH/News Bulletin

Cpl. Brigitte Goguen is Nanaimo RCMP’s new mental health liaison officer. The position is in response to a growing number of mental health-related calls, which have gone from 1,313 in 2014 to 2,224 last year. CHRIS BUSH/News Bulletin

Nanaimo RCMP launch new position in response to mental health calls

Cpl. Brigitte Goguen is the detachment’s new mental health liaison officer

There’s a new beat at Nanaimo police detachment.

Nanaimo Mounties have launched a new mental health liaison position as they grapple with a rising number of mental health calls.

Mental health-related calls rose 69 per cent between 2014-16, the RCMP reports, and those increasing calls are not only drawing on police resources but are seen as a community safety issue.

  • RELATED: Mental health-related calls up dramatically for police
  • RELATED: Hazards include mental health

In 2014 the City of Nanaimo considered itself the first in B.C. and Canada to name mental health as a cause of man-made hazards in its Hazard Risk and Vulnerability Analysis, as a result of the volume of calls to police and ties to bomb threats, suicide and arson. Last year, core review consultants recommended a long-term wellness strategy to address social disorder and promote social wellness, while also pointing out that police provide the only 24-hour-a-day response to non-criminal calls, but have limited training and tools to deal with them.

In other jurisdictions, it said, police are supplemented by social workers, mental health professionals and social workers, which can expand skills and resources for better service, and suggested the city could facilitate and co-ordinate resources.

It’s not known what the city’s position is on the core review suggestion as city manager Tracy Samra did not respond to a request for comment. But former Nanaimo RCMP Insp. Sorab Rupa and Dr. Paul Hasselback, Island Health’s medical health officer for Central Island, recognize no one alone is responsible for the mental health issue in Nanaimo and like the idea of a strategy.

Rupa told the News Bulletin that police are seeing more and more people on the mental health continuum, some 25 times or more, and there’s a need for a well-defined, integrated plan from wherever the start is, like police interaction or psychiatric services, to post-release and long-term care. A lot of police resources are going to mental health and he said it’s not like they’re going to solve it.

“We are not going to solve this because we are not mental health care providers, we are not long-term support. We can’t give them a place to stay. We can’t make sure they take their medication. We can’t follow up with them,” he said. “We need the integrated plan to make sure the person we get a hit from is actually looked after, stabilized and we have less contact with them.”

Cpl. Brigitte Goguen, new mental health liaison officer, is the detachment’s response to the mental health issue.

Nanaimo RCMP Insp. Lisa Fletcher said the position was created out of necessity. General duty members are going to a number of calls daily with a mental health component and it takes time to find effective solutions. Having one person who has community connections can help facilitate solutions more readily, she said.

The detachment has considered having mental health workers ride along with police, but Fletcher said there currently aren’t the staffing levels and a request for an additional mental health position was not approved.

Goguen’s mandate is to reduce calls to police and decrease the criminalization of people with a mental illness by facilitating a collaborative, consistent and co-ordinated approach to address their needs, an RCMP information sheet says.

She’ll work with partners like Forensic Mental Health, Psychiatric Emergency Services and community outreach teams and will share information about risks connected to safety issues for clients or the public.

She’ll be able to make sure police have a heads up about whom they might encounter and how best to deal with them. Goguen told the News Bulletin she can mark people on her system with certain flags that show, for example, a person is on the autism spectrum and a trigger that would make them anxious, potentially violent and have an outburst is if they are spoken to by more than one person at once. She said if police were aware that person needs focused attention, it would lead to a better response to police interaction.

Goguen will also be an advocate for more resources, prevention and support for people with mental illnesses.

She said her hope is she can deal with people before they reach crisis points or get entrenched in crime, addiction or harmful behavior, by noticing, for example, when there are high calls for service and bringing in community resources.

“I’m going into it knowing it’s a really, really big issue in Nanaimo and that I can’t fix everything, but I can make sure that our detachment is as open to working with other partners as possible,” said Goguen.

Hasselback said there’s a significant group of people who not only need health system support, but when they have episodes they often come in contact with the justice and social systems, and also benefit from quality housing. It’s not a health, city or criminal justice issue alone, he said.

“We need to be working more closely together,” said Hasselback, who calls the new officer position “great.”

“I think we’re going to find as soon as we have one position in that it’s not going to be enough, but we won’t get enough of a team together until we start with one position.”



news@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at a fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. Mowi Canada has applied to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision by Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to phase out salmon farming in the Discovery Islands by June, 2022. (Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward photo)
Major B.C. salmon farm seeks court intervention in Discovery Islands ban

Fisheries minister is phasing out operations in the area by June 2022

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson is humbled to her knees as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Ucluelet paddle boarder surrounded by pod of orcas

“My whole body is still shaking. I don’t even know what to do with this energy.”

Cumberland photographer Sara Kemper recently took the top spot in a Canadian Geographic photography contest. Photo by Sara Kemper
Vancouver Island photographer takes top Canadian Geographic photo prize

Sara Kemper shows what home means to her in Comox Valley photo

Bob Joseph, author of 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, will be available for a Q&A through the Vancouver Island Regional Library Jan. 28. (Courtesy of Vancouver Island Regional Library)
Everything Vancouver Island needs to know about the Indian Act and was afraid to ask

Online Question and Answer session with author Bob Joseph open to all Vancouver Island residents

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is reminding visitors that all dogs must be leashed at all times. (Westerly file photo)
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve urges dog owners to show respect by leashing their pets

“As Coastal Stewards, we appreciate seeing you with your pets on leashes.”

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

Inspection of bridge crossing on a B.C. forest service road. (B.C. Forest Practices Board)
B.C. falling behind in maintenance of forest service roads

Auditor finds nearly half of bridges overdue for repair

Muddy Valley Farm in rural Saanich is calling for witnesses after its large metal gate was stolen overnight on Monday, Jan. 18. (Muddy Valley Farm/Facebook)
Rural Saanich farm reports large metal gate stolen

Muddy Valley Farm gate stolen overnight by ‘at least two people’

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. on Oct. 31, 2018. Several Vancouver Island mayors and members of British Columbia’s salmon farming industry say a federal decision to phase out fish farming has left them feeling “disposable and discarded.” In a letter to Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, they say they weren’t consulted before she announced a plan to phase out open-net pen fish farming in the Discovery Islands over the next 18 months. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward
Strathcona Regional District pens letter to Trudeau about fish farm closure

Minister Jordan, MLA Babchuk and MP Blaney also included in letter

Colin Springford expressed his thanks following a birthday truck parade that was held for him on his 75th birthday on April 10, 2020. (Submitted photo)
Longtime Nanoose Bay farmer Colin Springford dies at age 75

‘He will be deeply missed, always loved and never forgotten’

A 45-metre tall call tower is proposed for Westhills Stadium. (Black Press Media file photo)
New cell tower proposed for Westhills Stadium in Langford

Tower will increase capacity in congested network: staff report

(Black Press Media files)
Woman steals bottles of wine after brandishing stun baton in New Westminster

Police say the female suspect was wearing a beige trench coat with fur lining

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden are sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)
Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States

About 25,000 National Guard members have been dispatched to Washington

A water taxi at Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man arrested after stolen water taxi raced up Victoria’s Gorge Waterway

Man is facing recommended charges of theft over $5,000 after leading police on marine chase

Most Read