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'We misunderstood': Vancouver mayor's public safety plan not being funded by the province after all


B.C.'s newly announced public safety plan does not allocate funding for the Vancouver mayor's plan to hire more mental health nurses and police officers in the city, the office of the premier has confirmed.

After Premier David Eby's announcement of sweeping new measures to tackle public safety issues, Ken Sim said the province would be chipping in funding for one of his central campaign promises – which was to hire 100 new officers and 100 new nurses.

Three million dollars in provincial funding, he claimed Sunday, would make up the difference between the $4.5 million the city is proposing to give the Vancouver Police Department to hire new officers and the $1.5 million for Vancouver Coastal Health to hire mental health nurses.

But on Monday his chief of staff Kareem Allam walked that claim back in a social media post, saying "we misunderstood." A spokesperson for the mayor reiterated this in a statement emailed to CTV News.

"To correct the record. The province didn’t offer all $3 million to Vancouver. We misunderstood," it reads in part. "We are excited about the policy alignment between Vancouver and the province to increase frontline mental health supports and restorative justice as part of a broader public safety strategy."

The "Safer Communities Action Plan" does include $3 million to expand "integrated mobile community crisis response" programs in which a mental health nurse is paired with a police officer. There are currently 10 of these programs in B.C. that are partnerships between police departments and health authorities – only one of which is in Vancouver. How the funding will be allocated has yet to be determined, with the provincial announcement saying "an application process will be established for communities."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the premier said that no funding has been earmarked for the City of Vancouver.

"We haven't tied any specific dollars to Vancouver but there will be significant benefits for the city through our provincial investments in the plan, which will be focused first on areas of greatest need," an email to CTV News said.

The province's announcement dedicated significantly more money to civilian-led "Peer Assisted Care Teams" which do not include police at all. These teams pair a mental health professional, like a social worker or a psychiatric nurse, with a peer worker. Ten million has been promised to create 12 more of these teams in communities across B.C., some of which are to be Indigenous-led.

"Care teams made up of mental health professionals and peer workers respond to calls related to feelings of hopelessness or despair, social isolation, loneliness, fear, anxiety, thoughts of self-harm and suicide, substance use or other mental health challenges," the province's announcement explains, adding they can be called instead of police or in addition to police – depending on the situation.

The Canadian Mental Health Association is among the proponents of this model.

“We know when a person is experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, what they need and want is the support from someone who knows what they are going through," Jonathan Morris, the CEO of the CMHA's B.C. division wrote in a statement to accompany the provincial announcement.

"Today marks a bold commitment by this government to support mental health for all. A community-led care response, informed by people with lived and living experience, operated by local organizations is part of the transformation we need.”

Meanwhile, Vancouver council is set to vote on the motion Tuesday that would see $6 million set aside for the city to begin to make good on Sim's election promise. During the campaign Sim promised to requisition the hiring of 100 officers and 100 nurses on "day one."" estimating it would cost the city $20 million per year. Top Stories

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