A Mobile Crisis Response Team has operated in Prescott County since February with involvement of the Hawkesbury Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachment and Hawkesbury General Hospital (HGH). A similar team from the hospital and the Russell County OPP detachment is expected to begin next month.
The crisis response teams are designed to provide early intervention and options for people in mental-health related crises. When a 911 call for mental health was received, an OPP officer and mental health professional would provide the affected person and their family with “immediate and appropriate care” with a reduction in “traumatic mental health apprehensions”, a statement from the Hawkesbury OPP said. Issues could include loss of shelter or basic needs, risk of self-harm to others, intoxication and not knowing where to turn.
Provincial Constable Mario Gratton and mental health counsellor Frantz Neveu from HGH have patrolled Hawkesbury and the surrounding area three days a week since February. Neveu is able to screen for serious mental health situations or substance abuse, complete a mental health assessment, advocate for client care with various partners in the community, and assist people needing emergency hospitalization, while Constable Gratton provides a secure environment and assists with emergency hospitalization.
Hawkesbury OPP detachment commander, Inspector Chris McGillis said the partnership would help provide access to critical mental health services. Some 110 mental health-related calls for service have been dealt with in the Hawkesbury detachment’s patrol area so far this year, compared to 194 for the whole of 2020.
"The collaboration between the OPP and the Hawkesbury General Hospital will greatly enhance the access to vital services for clients in critical need of care, as well as, increasing efficiencies in providing these services,” Inspector McGillis said.
Russell County’s mobile crisis response team will begin on July 5 with Provincial Constable Melissa Bouchard and mental health social worker Bruce Denis from HGH. Constable Bouchard said the hours of operation in Russell County had not yet been determined, but said the program would help find residents with the right support provider and prevent repeat calls for mental health crises.
“We are right now responding to a lot of mental health related calls,” she said. “It’s also to lower the number of people with mental health issues entering the criminal justice system. We intervene before they get into criminal justice or enter a court process.”
Constable Bouchard said the program could also help create more positive interactions between police and the community. “We want it to be a positive outcome,” she said. “Sometimes when you have a civilian paired with a police officer, sometimes the outsider sees it as less intimidating and more approachable.”
HGH chief of staff Dr. Julie Maranda said the partnership would help people in need. “'This new partnership will provide persons, facing difficult circumstances, personalized and adapted care in a private and secure environment,” she said. “By working with the OPP, we're focusing on the client's need and offering access to the right care, at the right time in the right place.”