VPD, hospitals grinding down wait for police “handing off” mental health patients, but costs still high

Vancouver Police Department officers are still spending hundreds of hours a year waiting at Vancouver hospitals to “hand off” mental health patients they have apprehended, according to a VPD memo to city council, but the average wait is going down.

Thanks to new measures introduced by the hospitals, police officers are waiting an average 60 minutes to hand off a patient, down from 71 minutes before the new program.

Nonetheless, this memo from VPD Inspector Ralph Pauw, prepared for council at the request of Councillor Kerry Jang, makes it clear that city taxpayers are still paying a high policing cost to fill gaps in the province’s patchwork mental health system. VPD pays police officers for hundreds of hours a year to stand waiting at the hospital for the hand-off.

Pauw advocates a simple change to regulations to allow qualified nurses, not just busy physicians, to determine that admission to hospital is required. Once that decision is made, police officers could go back to their real jobs — and much faster.