Vancouver mayoral candidate promises big boost to program matching cops with mental health nurses

A candidate running for mayor of Vancouver is pledging to hire 100 police officers and 100 mental health nurses to team up and tackle mental health crises, if elected with a majority on council.

A Better City (ABC) mayoral candidate Ken Sim made the announcement on Monday, two months before the Oct. 15 vote.

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Sim’s proposal is to massively expand the “Car 87” program, which sees undercover police officers partnering with mental health workers from Vancouver Coastal Health to provide assessments and interventions for people in mental health crisis or substance addiction.

“People want to see solutions that work, and the Car 87 program is actually a really good example of that,” Sim said.

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The program began as a pilot project in 1978 and was formalized in 1987. It has two vehicles, Car 87 and Car 88, which provide coverage from 7 a.m. to 11:15 p.m., seven days a week.

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According to a report by the Vancouver Police Board in 2021, the program receives more than 200 calls for service per month.

The plan, he claimed, would cost about $20 million, money Sim thinks he can find elsewhere in the city’s current budget.

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“The City of Vancouver spends over $300 million a year on non-essential expenses, so we’re already doing that,” Sim said.

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“What we are going to do is we are going to comb through this budget and make sure we reallocate some of these resources to this higher impact initiative that focuses on community safety and compassionate care while we seek longer-term solutions with our provincial and federal government partners.

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The proposal echoes a recommendation from the all-party committee that reviewed British Columbia’s Police Act this spring, which called for greater integration between police, mental health and social services, and specifically cited “Car “.

Rival mayoral candidate Mark Marissen with Progress Vancouver slammed the proposal on Twitter as “bringing a water gun to a wildfire.”

“It keeps people in tents and does nothing to solve the fundamental problem: the lack of adequate housing,” he wrote. “Either Ken doesn’t understand or he chooses to let the higher governments off the hook.”

Nonpartisan Association (NPA) council candidate Arezo Zarrabian also took to Twitter to criticize the plan’s finances.

“How do we pay for this. What about the difficulty of recruiting? Your numbers and your budget are way off,” she wrote.

Public safety and the complex interactions between poverty, homelessness, mental health and addiction are shaping up to be a key election issue this year.

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Sim hopes to overthrow incumbent mayor Kennedy Stewart, to whom he lost by less than 1,000 votes in the 2018 election.

He also competes against Marissen and Coun. Colleen Hardwick, running for TEAM for a livable Vancouver.

The NPA has yet to announce a new mayoral candidate after Park Commissioner John Coupar resigned earlier this month.

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