Plans to modernize RCMP health services had Sechelt Coun. Doug Hockley seeing red at the June 6 council meeting.
He said changes planned for the member employee assistance program (MEAP) will end up costing taxpayers a bundle, even though the RCMP said it anticipates lower contract policing costs for part-timers as a result of the proposal.
The change, communicated to council via a letter, would shift the current peer-referral program for RCMP members experiencing mental or personal problems to a public sector referral provider.
“That private carrier is going to make millions of dollars off that particular change in itself, and right now the member assistance program in the RCMP is a cost within the structure itself because it’s done by members of the RCMP — and they’re going to shift that outside,” Hockley said.
His expertise on the subject stemmed from the fact that he helped set up the MEAP program for the RCMP.
“For just over 20 years, I operated the B.C. Telephone Company’s (B.C. Tel) employee assistance program. Throughout the province of B.C., it serviced 13,000-plus employees and their family members and retirees and their significant others,” Hockley told Coast Reporter this week, explaining that at the time many companies had assistance programs geared solely toward alcohol-related problems.
Other companies and groups started approaching B.C. Tel to learn more about their program and soon Hockley was tasked with helping others start their own MEAPs.
“I went all over Canada speaking to unions and companies about how to set these programs up, and along came two members of the North Vancouver RCMP,” Hockley recalled.
He said the members were keen to start the program within the RCMP as they were uneasy about approaching management with personal problems.
“It’s not organized by the RCMP management, it’s by members, and that’s what was so significant to them because they can trust in their own, but they’re a little leery about what might happen if management were to find out,” Hockley said.
However, the change now proposed would alter that program to have a public sector provider refer and possibly assess RCMP members needing help.
The exact details of the change are not yet clear, and deputy commander Doug Lang with RCMP Contract and Aboriginal Policing told council via the letter that he has requested “the RCMP Health Services Modernization program be added to the agenda of the upcoming contract management meeting, at which time I will have more information to share and be available to answer questions.”
That promise of more information was not enough to appease Hockley, however, who asked for a letter to be written to Lang expressing council’s “deep concern about the rising costs” resulting from the change. All of council was in favour of drafting and sending the letter.
“Maybe they’ll look into it. My best hope would be they’ll take a second look at what they’re getting themselves into,” Hockley said. “If I was sitting with the commissioner of the RCMP, I would say ‘I don’t know who’s advising you on this, but it’s wrong. It’s really, really wrong’.”