Vancouver city council will review its next steps for a $2.8 million grant to the health authority in what Mayor Ken Sim says will enhance a police partnership with mental health services.
The investment, along with a funding allocation from council to hire 100 more police officers, will "bolster Vancouver's frontline mental health and public safety response," Sim told a news conference on Sunday.
He said the bulk of the new funding — $2.5 million — will be used to hire 58 new mental health workers.
Sim explained Vancouver's annual grant to the health authority will grow to $8 million and future phases may include more "proactive responses to mental health," such as greater outreach efforts and services to help those recovering from a crisis back into the community.
"It's incredibly hard to overemphasize the gravity of this announcement and the positive impact that it will have on our community," Sim said.
"We have an opportunity to set a new standard in North America for a modern and compassionate approach toward addressing the conflict and often interlinked challenges regarding public safety and mental health."
The recommendations will be presented to council on Feb. 14.
Sim made the comments outside city hall on Sunday, standing beside Premier David Eby, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Jennifer Whiteside, the minister of mental health and addictions, and Vancouver's police Chief Const. Adam Palmer.
Eby said Sim and the City of Vancouver are showing leadership in what is a complex public safety challenge.
"Solving the problems that we see on our streets is going to take all levels of government working together, Indigenous leadership working with us, community service providers and law enforcement working together, health workers and so many more," he said. "That's the approach that our government is championing."
Dix said the investment in mental health supports will not only benefit the vulnerable, allowing them to get the care they need, but the stronger health care system will also help the entire community.
Whiteside said that when people are in a crisis because of challenges with mental health or substance use, they need to be met with care and compassion.
“This partnership will help strengthen the work already underway by the province to provide urgent supports for people," she said.
Sunday's announcement comes following a motion passed by Vancouver council in November directing city staff to allocate $8 million toward hiring new police officers andup to $8 million for the Vancouver Coastal Health authority to support mental health crisis response services.
Sim's party, ABC Vancouver, was elected on promises to hire 100 more police officers and 100 mental health nurses to address public safety concerns.
Sim said the announcement marks a "groundbreaking" next step in the partnership between the City of Vancouver, the provincial government, Vancouver Coastal Health and the Vancouver Police Department on public safety and mental health.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2023.
Brieanna Charlebois, The Canadian Press