SOUTH DUNDAS — Local police have a new option when responding to mental health calls — the specialized assistance of a mental health nurse who is part of a new Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT).
The team was launched late last month as an “innovative partnership” involving the Cornwall Community Hospital, the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, and the detachement — whose officers until now have had limited resources when confronted with mental health calls.
Officials say the MCRT will provide early intervention for those who need it, at a time when mental health-related calls continue to rise in number, severity and complexity in SD&G. Not knowing who else to turn to in a mental health crisis, those involved have typically called the police.
Now, SD&G OPP officers and a trained medical professional, working together, will respond. And they have options when encountering one of these situations, according to the detachment.
Since Sept. 28, members of the OPP have been patrolling with Mental Health Nurse Don Depratto from the Cornwall Community Hospital — responding to calls where mental health is a factor. Nurse Depratto, with advanced mental health training and experience, is able to screen for serious mental illnesses or substance use, complete a mental and basic physical health assessment, advocate for client care, review medications, complete a suicide risk assessment and provide health information for family members and caregivers. He described this partnership as “the perfect blend of two professions working together for the community.”
SD&G OPP Community Mobilization Officer Jim Blanchette is “thrilled to see the program underway after two years of hard work,” he said Oct. 23. In operation for a couple of weeks by then, the MCRT had demonstrated “great work” already, he said.
From 2007 to 2018, mental health related calls for service to the OPP increased by 42 percent, and consumed 65 percent more time from officers. The partners in the initiative say the new SD&G MCRT will improve the experience of residents and their families by providing a less intrusive service, on an immediate basis, with no lengthy wait and should lead to a reduction in traumatic mental health apprehensions.
Staff Sergeant Simon Hardy of the SD&G OPP professed to being “extremely proud of the collaborative efforts and common vision demonstrated by our OPP members, our partners, especially the Cornwall Community Hospital and the United Counties of SD&G to provide an alternate approach of service delivery, thus increasing our service excellence to the community we serve, especially for some of its most vulnerable members.”
Police interactions with the addicted and the mentally ill have come under heightened scrutiny in Ontario and Canada, with a number of recent high-profile fatalities leading to loud calls for reform. A member of the SD&G OPP was cleared of wrongdoing last year in the December 2017 shooting death of a man with schizophrenia who engaged the officer in a struggle outside the Morrisburg OPP station.