The RCMP and Northern Health have expanded a program in Houston in which an officer and a registered psychiatric nurse visit people in their homes to check on their well-being and offer information on assistance programs into Granisle.
What began as a pilot program more than a year ago in Houston and which is now become a regular part of the RCMP detachment’s initiatives has proven its worth so that expanding into Granisle was a logical move, says Sgt. Mark Smaill, the commanding officer of the Houston RCMP detachment.
“We’ve actually been planning for that since we started [in Houston],” said Smaill of the expansion into Granisle which is part of the detachment’s coverage area.
To date, there has been one such outreach of an RCMP officer and nurse.
And as is the case in Houston, the idea is to have the officer and nurse visit people by appointment and referral.
“There’s good health care in Granisle but some people still don’t feel comfortable about going to a health care centre,” Smaill said.
The overall strategy is that such home visits may prevent an incident that requires a police intervention or to determine how a person is coping after such an incident may have occurred.
The idea of preventation is particularly important for smaller communities without a full series of resources that might be available in larger centres, he said.
“The ideal would be to have those resources, but we don’t,” Smaill said in adding that often, in smaller communities, the RCMP become the agency of last resort as it is a 24/7 service.
The expansion into Granisle is independent of recent recommendations from a jury following a November inquest into the 2016 deaths in Granisle of Shirley Williams and her son Jovan Williams.
RCMP officers, including an emergency response team, were called to the Williams residence following an altercation between the mother and son and local residents in which Jovan Williams produced a handgun.
A 2018 report by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. concluded an officer was forced to fire first when Jovan ran out the back door of the residence wearing an army helmet and tossed a Molotov cocktail and pointed a rifle toward an officer, and then again when Shirley came out with a shotgun wearing a bullet-proof vest.
One of six recommendations from the jury was that the RCMP and Northern Health “lead the development, training and implementation of community crisis intervention teams within isolated communities that bring together members of various agencies, for example, EMS, fire, council, band office, community health, RCMP, school officials, to assist in providing a cohesive response in critical incidents.”
(With files from Thom Barker)