Police launch Mental Health Support Team

South Simcoe Police have now launched a Mental Health Support Team (MHST), as part of a Community Safety and Well-Being Strategy, to address the increasing number of mental health calls received by police.

Working in partnership with York Support Services Network, the 2-person mobile team will include a South Simcoe Police constable, and a mental health crisis worker from 310-COPE. The team will be mobilized to respond to calls involving emotionally-distressed persons suffering from mental health, dual diagnosis and/or addition concerns, in crisis.

Front line patrol officers will still be the first responders to “person in crisis” calls, but the MHST will attend to provide assistance, assess mental health status and determine if there is a need for apprehension, and transportation to hospital. In that case, the MHST will take over the call, freeing up responding officers for other duties.

The team will also engage in pro-active contact with persons at risk, and the crisis worker will develop crisis management plans, provide resources and supports, and follow up with community services.

Jean West, Mental Health Director with the York Support Services Network explained, “A  recent 3-year review of our MHST program with York Regional Police (which looked at over 1,600 mobile visits), funded by the Central Local Health Integration Network (Central LHIN) demonstrated that 77% of individuals in a crisis were supported on scene, and did not get transported to hospital.”

Even more significantly, only 6% of individuals were apprehended under the Mental Health Act. “That's tremendously successful for the well-being of individuals in crisis, police time, and costs tot he healthcare system,” West said. “We are very excited about the program's expansion into South Simcoe and our partnership with South Simcoe Police.”

“This is an exciting time for the South Simcoe Police Service. I hope we will quickly see the benefits of this great program,” said Deputy Chief Robin McElary-Downer.

The Mental Health Support Team has been active for about a week, and is expected to reduce the time front line officers spend on crisis calls, while helping to connect individuals with the mental health and/or addiction services and supports needed to reduce future crisis calls.

“About 2% of all our calls for service are mental health calls,” said Police Constable Rich Williamson, media relations officer. “These calls can tie up officers for several hours. The addition of MHST will free our officers to respond to other high priority calls, and their proactive intervention may even reduce the number of crisis calls we receive.”

The program is funded by the Central LHIN, and will be offered in both Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil.