An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
IT WAS PROBABLY INEVITABLE — and it’s certainly appropriate — that Car 40 should come up as a local election issue.
What’s missing, though, is a plan for comprehensive provincial coverage of the program.
Car 40 provides a nurse to accompany an RCMP officer on mental-health-related calls. The problem is it covers only part of the week, daytime hours during week days.
It’s self-evident that mental health crises don’t happen only during the day Tuesdays through Fridays.
Kamloops City council has been lobbying Interior Health for a couple of years to provide more funding in order to expand the program. Interior Health has, in effect, pleaded poverty, saying the situation needs to be thoroughly reviewed in order to “make the best use of resources.”
It claims Car 40 is under-utilized. Yet, a hundred or more police calls relating to the Mental Health Act are received every month in Kamloops, and Car 40 is able to respond to only a quarter of them due to its limitations.
And the number of those calls has been increasing. So, at the suggestion of Kamloops MLAs Todd Stone and Peter Milobar, BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has promised Car 40 will get another $250,000 per year in funding from Interior Health if the Liberals are elected.
The BC Conservatives have come up with the most logical response so far — that Car 40 needs to be a provincial program, not just a one-off local one.
It really shouldn’t be a political issue at all. Car 40 is a perfect fit for the movement toward making policing more sensitive to community needs. Calls for “defunding” police would more profitably be aimed at supporting programs like Car 40.
It’s a great program. All parties, including the NDP, should be calling for more funding to make it available 24-7.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.