Vancouver City Council approves funding for more police and mental health nurses

Vancouver City Council on Tuesday approved up to $16 million for 100 new police officers and 100 mental health nurses, part of newly elected mayor Ken Sim’s campaign platform.

The motion leaves the door open for provincial or federal governments to contribute to the plan.

Sim and his ABC Vancouver party, which has a large majority on the council, pledged to fund the recruitment of police and nurses for programs in which they respond to mental health calls.

ABC count. Sarah Kirby-Yung called the decision a strong and bold move needed in the city.

“You can’t put a price on public safety, and you can’t put a price on mental health and wellness and we can’t afford not to,” she said.

The city was originally prepared to spend $4.5 million on the police force and $1.5 million on the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, with hiring to begin in January.

But at Tuesday’s council meeting, those numbers were increased to $8 million for each, including any state or federal funding that may be available.

The change comes days after Prime Minister David Eby announced a new public safety plan, including expanding mental health crisis response teams.

The council voted to ask the county to be part of plans to establish 12 peer-assisted care teams, made up of trained peers and mental health professionals to respond to those in need, with or without police.

Sim’s pledge drew significant opposition from some members of the public and mental health advocates, who say involving the police in mental health appeals increases fear for those in crisis and that the money could be used more effectively elsewhere .

count. Pete Fry, who is not part of ABC Vancouver and voted against the motion, said the budget process was not clear and he was nervous about what promising these positions would mean for the rest of the city’s budget.

“We’re kind of setting a stage here for what seems to me like a bit of a blank check approach,” he said.

In a Tuesday report, the Vancouver Police Department estimated that the entire contingent of 100 new officers, plus 20 civilian professionals it plans to hire, would cost $15.7 million annually.

It is unclear when the new vacancies can be filled.

When asked about the pressure across Canada to hire nurses and when there might be new hires, Vancouver Coastal Health said in a statement that it “has already begun work on a multi-year nurse recruitment and retention plan”.

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