Kamloops RCMP are working with a few people who chronically use emergency services because of their addictions and other problems.
The social chronic offender program aims to get the people targeted — mainly alcoholics who often require police, paramedics and hospital services — involved with services to help them, Staff Sgt. Fran Bethell told the City's co-ordinated enforcement task force Monday.
"These are some of our most challenging clients."
The program began six months ago and has had varied success, as the participants have good days and bad days dealing with their addictions, Bethell said.
They have significant social, health and personal issues, but end up being a drain on health and police resources, she said.
"We've picked a couple of them and wrapped services around them," she said.
"We've had some successes with the three people we've been working with."
The goal is to reduce the number of times program participants require the assistance of paramedics, police or the hospital's emergency staff.
The program participants meet with someone from the RCMP's prolific offender program and they discuss the person's problems and needs.
"If homelessness is an issue, we would work with those who provide housing. It's unique to each individual's issues. In most cases, addiction is one of the issues. So we'd try to facilitate working with them to get into a detox or other program," said Bethell.
"They're not involved with criminal acts, but possibly in our drunk tank all the time, or causing disturbances. It's relatively new. We've only started to identify people and they've only worked with a couple of individuals so far to see if this is an area we can move into next."
The executive director of ASK Wellness was surprised to hear about the program.
Bob Hughes said he had discussed some kind of program following the death of John Gibbons on Nov. 21, 2009.
The day before, Gibbons had been taken into police cells for being drunk in public. He had resisted being put in a cell and some force was used. He was released by police that evening.
The next morning, his body was found in the Stuart Wood elementary school yard. A pathologist found he died of internal bleeding from blunt force trauma. Evidence did not indicate when he received his fatal injury.
"That was largely an indication of a failure of us to co-ordinate somebody who was publicly inebriated. And it was not appropriate for city cells. That's where he was prior to his death," Hughes said.
As a result, something like the program being started was discussed. But Hughes hadn't heard anything since.
"If we're targeting individuals who are frequent users of the services, I think there would have been a number of stakeholders involved," he said.
"I was surprised this was already underway. It's the first I've heard of it. I've heard of the idea, I was at the table to discuss it."
Organizations dealing with housing, mental health and addictions also need to be involved, he said.
"I thought it was essential we come together as a community after the coroner's inquest."
Bethell said the appropriate groups are being contacted as needed.
"We contact other agencies as we try to figure out what's needed to resolve the issues with that individual person."
There could be a committee established to deal with the people in the program, but it's still early stages, she said.