THERE IS CONCERN in Kamloops that social issues such as drug addiction and mental illness are growing. There are daily calls that more be done.
Therefore, it was timely that yesterday, March 29, Supt. Syd Lecky, the head of the Kamloops RCMP detachment, gave a quarterly and yearly summary of how things were going.
He reported on commercial and residential break ins, domestic and sexualized violence, missing persons, and traffic violations. By his assessment, things were about the same overall, with some increases in crime, some decreases. Crime is about the same, but public disorder is not so good.
Councillors wanted more information. Most specifically, Councillors Dale Bass, and Sadie Hunter asked pointed questions to Leaky about Car 40.
Car 40 has been in operation since 2013. It is a partnership between the Kamloops RCMP and Interior Health. One RCMP officer and one Interior Health nurse work together to respond to mental health related calls. The City of Kamloops and the RCMP have been very happy with how it deals with people in distress.
The City wants to extend the service. Money has been allocated in the City budget to pay for a second Car 40 and RCMP officer. But Interior Health has said no repeatedly to adding a second nurse.
The current service is available Monday to Friday during the days. As Leaky said, mental health issues do not happen just from 9 to 5 on weekdays.
Since 2018, there have been repeated calls, year after year, both from the City, and RCMP, as well as families who have lost loved ones by death by suicide, for expanding Car 40 in Kamloops. But Interior Health always says no.
Lecky’s report indicated crime is relatively static in Kamloops, with some ups and some downs. But nowhere in the numbers were the number of people sitting on the sidewalk, the number of disoriented individuals wandering the streets, or the number of people gathering along roadways openly using drugs. These are not criminal behaviour. These are issues of homelessness, mental illness, and drug addiction.
Having the right tool to respond, such as Car 40, makes a difference. As Lecky said, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Car 40 allows individuals facing mental illness crises to be helped not by the criminal justice system, but by the health care system.
Since 2018, Interior Health has been refusing to expand Car 40. They have other priorities for their budget. They are maxed out providing their existing services.
But next time you have a chance, take a look at your City of Kamloops property bill. On top of about $2,600 in property taxes, you’ll see about $240 per year is collected for the Thompson Nicola Regional Hospital Board. That money goes directly to Interior Health. That $240 is on top of taxes you already pay to the provincial and federal government for healthcare. The $240 is collected so that we can have even better, enhanced services. As a community, we give millions to Interior Health for improved services via the Thompson Nicola Regional Hospital Board.
Since 2018, Interior Health has been saying no to a second Car 40, while each and every property owner in Kamloops has been paying about $240 per year for better services. To be fair, the $240 pays for capital expenses such as the new patient tower at Royal Inland Hospital.
But when Thompson Nicola Regional Hospital Board provides money for one project, like the new patient tower, it means other money in Interior Health’s budget is freed up for other things.
Each and every property owner in Kamloops has been paying heavily to improve healthcare in our community. It’s time Interior Health listened to City Council, RCMP, and most of all family members of those who have been lost to mental illness and addictions. It’s time they provided an additional Car 40 nurse.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.