A candidate in Vancouver’s mayoral race is pledging to hire 100 police officers and 100 mental health nurses to team up and tackle mental health crises, if he’s elected with a majority on council.
A Better City (ABC) mayoral candidate Ken Sim made the announcement Monday, with two months to go before the Oct. 15 vote.
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Sim’s proposal is to massively expand the “Car 87” program, which sees plain-clothed police officers partner with Vancouver Coastal Health mental health workers to provide assessments and interventions fir people having a mental health or substance use crisis.
“People want to see effective solutions, and the Car 87 program is actually a really good example of it,” Sim said.
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The program began as a pilot project in 1978 and was formalized in 1987. It staffs two vehicles, Car 87 and Car 88, which offer coverage from 7 a.m. to 11:15 p.m. seven days a week.
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According to a report to the Vancouver Police Board in 2021, the program gest more than 200 calls for service per month.
The plan, he claimed, would cost about $20 million, money Sim believes can be found elsewhere in the existing city budget.
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“The City of Vancouver spends over $300 million a year on non-core spends, so we’re already doing it,” Sim said.
“What we’re going to do is we’re going to go … through that budget with a fine-toothed comb and make sure we reallocate some of those resources towards this higher-impact initiative that focuses on community safety and empathetic care while we look for longer-term solutions with our partners in the provincial and federal governments.”
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The proposal echoes a recommendation from the all-party committee that reviewed B.C.’s Police Act this spring, which called for more integration between police, mental health and social services, and specifically cited the “Car” programs.
Rival mayoral candidate Mark Marissen with Progress Vancouver slammed the proposal on Twitter as “bringing a squirt gun to a forest fire.”
“This keeps people in tents and does nothing to fix the root problem: the lack of adequate housing,” he wrote. “Either Ken doesn’t understand, or he’s choosing to let senior governments off the hook.”
Non-Partisan Association (NPA) council candidate Arezo Zarrabian also took to Twitter to criticize the plan’s financials.
“How are we paying for this. What about the difficulty with recruitment? Your numbers and 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.
Sim is hoping to unseat sitting Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who he lost to by fewer than 1,000 votes in the 2018 election.
He’s also competing 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 stepped down earlier this month.
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