Car 87

The Vancouver Police Department fields a response unit called ‘Car 87’, where a police officer and a nurse are partnered to give assistance to those with psychiatric problems.  The team works closely with the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority – Mental Health Emergency Services, and provides assessments, follow-up and emergency intervention to those in need.  The nurse is able to provide the medical services required, while the officer is able to act under the Mental Health Act (MHA), which grants powers of apprehension to the police in cases where the person is believed to be suffering from a mental disorder and poses a risk to their safety or the safety of others.

Having worked a few fill-in shifts on the officer side of the team, I witnessed first hand the compassion and understanding the nurses showed to those with mental health issues.  On one night, the nurse had several patients on his list to follow-up with, and we were working our way around the city.  The nurse’s cell phone rang, and it was an urgent request to follow up with a woman who had just called into the crisis line, threatening suicide.

We went to the address provided, where we found the woman.  She was clearly in distress, crying and sobbing, telling us she didn’t want to live.  There were fresh scrapes on both of her wrists, and even though the marks were superficial, they were a good indicator of how the woman was feeling.  The Car 87 nurse talked with her at length, but no amount of encouragement could convince the woman to come with us to the hospital voluntarily.  She did not want to go, and told us that when we left her, she would kill herself.

That’s where the Mental Health Act came into play.  Once I explained what my apprehension powers were under the MHA, and that the decision of whether or not she should go to the hospital had been taken out of both of our hands, the woman reluctantly agreed to be transported.  She was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, where she was admitted to receive the care and follow-up she needed.

That incident ended peacefully, but not all such calls end with the patient walking themselves out to the ambulance.  Sometimes, the patient has gone un-medicated for days and needs to be restrained.  Other times, the patient is angry, hostile and aggressive, and it takes several officers to load the person into a waiting ambulance.  But in every case where I have seen this happen, the Car 87 nurse has always remained as the ‘safe person’, continuing to show kindness, compassion and gentle caring to the patient who often does not understand what is happening.  Being a Car 87 nurse is a job that takes a special type of person, and I am thankful for their expertise.

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1 Response to "Car 87"

  • Colin says: