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NWPD, Fraser Health formalize partnership
A distressed person showed up at the front counter of the New Westminster police department recently who benefited from a recent agreement between the NWPD and Fraser Health (FH).
It was clear they had mental health issues, and Const. Art Wlodyka, the NWPD’s mental health liaison officer, who was sitting at his desk nearby, quickly got up to speak to them, and within a few minutes had summoned a mental health worker from Fraser Health (FH) to assist and assess what could be done to help them out.
“That would not have happened if [Wlodyka] wasn’t in that position,” says Sgt. Diana McDaniel, who witnessed the incident. “A member would have been dispatched to the front lobby and there would have been yelling and screaming and they would have been irate and disruptive.”
Although there has been a loose arrangement between the two organizations for a while, it was formalized in June and announced last Thursday. The partnership includes Fraser Health providing consultation when officers are concerned about somebody experiencing mental health issues or having a substance-related crisis, outreach to clients, referrals to mental health teams or any other appropriate agency, and sharing of expertise that increases police knowledge of mental health issues. There is also a psychiatric liaison service with the Royal Columbian Hospital emergency department.
“It’s going extremely well,” said McDaniel. “The communication has been fantastic, very open. Certain cases have been able to be dealt with much quicker and much more effectively having that team.”
It’s a program that has already proved successful in other areas for Fraser Health including Burnaby, the Tri-Cities, Abbotsford and Chilliwack. Andrea Haworth, a Fraser Health mental health coordinator in New Westminster, said the program allows for mental health workers to be available to decrease crises and be more preventative, often avoiding having to hospitalize patients while getting them on the right track. She added the police also get first-hand experience learning how to deal with various mental health issues.
“It’s a win-win,” said Haworth.