Winkler Council has sent a $19,000 bill to the Regional Health Authority to spark a conversation about the Mental Health Act.
Winkler mayor Martin Harder said around a month and a half ago, Winkler Police Service picked up a person under the Mental Health Act and delivered them to Boundary Trails Health Centre.
Under the Mental Health Act, “a peace officer who takes a person into custody for an involuntary medical examination… shall remain with the person and retain custody of them, or arrange for another peace officer to do so, until the examination or assessment is completed or the person is admitted to the facility.”
“This has been an ongoing discussion for years already with the RHA,” Harder said. “There are many other communities that do have security people in place and facilities in place to be able to house them. This one does not.”
That meant the Winkler Police Service was required to have two officers with the person 24 hours a day for six days.
Because of personnel costs and overtime, the City of Winkler ended up with a bill of about $19,000.
Harder said City Council sent the RHA the invoice. “From my conversations with other people who have been involved with this for years, they said this issue has been an outstanding issue for 40 years,” he said. “It was high time we said we’re just going to send an invoice, we’ll bring it to a head.”
Right now the city doesn’t know if they will be on the hook for the $19,000.
“It’s not fair for the City of Winkler, who pays for their own police force, to need to deal with the RHA and the results of the Mental Health Act,” he said. “We want to make sure it gets addressed properly. The Mental Health Act makes a requirement that they have facilities or individuals in place where we can hand off the individual to them so they can control it.”
Winkler Council has drafted a resolution to the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) to ensure the RHA has the ability and necessary staff available to take individuals out of the police force’s hands and admit them to facilities where they can get help.
Harder said many other communities have faced similar situations. “The only issue is you have a lot of the rural municipalities that don’t have this experience because it’s paid for by the RCMP,” he said. “My understanding is that several weeks after this incident the RCMP has a similar incident in the same facility, but it was for seven days. This isn’t an issue that is taken lightly.”