Surrey RCMP expands outreach services to vulnerable citizens

Superintendent Shawn Gill

IN an effort to provide more comprehensive outreach services to Surrey’s vulnerable citizens, the Surrey RCMP has amalgamated its Surrey Outreach Team and Police Mental Health Intervention Unit into the new Police Mental Health Outreach Team.

The Police Mental Health Outreach Team (PMHOT), in collaboration with City of Surrey Bylaws, Fraser Health and other local health and community partners, develops integrated strategies to address crime, community concerns, and personal crisis in an inclusive manner throughout Surrey. By combining the expertise of police officers who worked on the Surrey Outreach Team and Police Mental Health Intervention Unit, PMHOT will ensure a consistent and integrated response to public safety concerns related to homelessness, addiction, and mental health.

This new team comes in the wake of the stabilization of the 135A Street area in June 2018, which included the provision of temporary housing for the local homeless population. The Surrey Outreach Team, which dedicated the past two years to developing supportive police-client relationships with the vulnerable people in and around 135A, can now take this successful intervention model city-wide.

For the past four years, the Surrey RCMP’s Police Mental Health Intervention Unit has been providing a measured response to police situations involving significant mental health issues. The unit works in close partnership with Fraser Health and other health and community agencies, and includes Car 67, a Police Mental Health Liaison, and an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team Constable.

Recognizing that both the Surrey Outreach Team and Police Mental Health Intervention Unit deal with some of the most vulnerable citizens within our city, it was determined that the amalgamation of these two units into the new PMHOT would allow the Surrey RCMP and its partners to provide enhanced service to these clients who require police service.

Specifically, the PMHOT:

  • Provides a visible presence of police, bylaws, and social services;
  • Builds relationships with those impacted by homelessness, mental health and/or substance abuse;
  • Seeks out and provides alternative supports to individuals in need;
  • Protects property and local businesses and works with the community to bring about solutions to local issues;
  • Proactively liaises with local agencies providing supports and services to citizens struggling with homelessness, addiction and/or mental health;
  • Provides emergency response to police mental health calls with Car 67 and long term solutions through the Police Mental Health Liaison; and
  • Supports Fraser Health mental health initiatives, including ACT.

“The creation of this new team and amalgamation of resources increases our capacity to provide outreach to those in our community suffering from mental health, substance use, and homelessness crises,” says Superintendent Shawn Gill, Community Services Officer. “From past experience, we know that when vulnerable persons are supported and engaged in healthy and safe living practices, this often leads to a reduction in criminal activity and reduced demand on policing and social services.”

“The City of Surrey’s stabilization plan for the 135A Street area has been successful because of the teamwork and innovative programs that have been implemented,” says Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. “The new Police Mental Health Outreach Team is another example of how we are constantly looking for ways to evolve and enhance how we can best help some of the most vulnerable people in our city.”

“We know it takes a coordinated, integrated approach with relevant stakeholders to make meaningful and sustained change in the health and well-being of people in our communities,” says Andy Libbiter, Executive Director for Mental Health and Substance Use at Fraser Health. “We welcome the enhanced police support of some of the most vulnerable members of our community, and we look forward to further partnering with them in this work.”

The Police Mental Health Outreach Team will work out of the Surrey RCMP office on 135A Street and is part of the Surrey RCMP’s ongoing commitment to reduce crime through prevention, education, intervention, and enforcement.

For more information on the Surrey RCMP’s and programs and services, visit the Surrey RCMP website.