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Grey Bruce OPP working to add in person mental health clinician to their team


October 12, 2021
By Canadian Press / Local Journalism Initiative

Oct. 12, 2021, Collingwood, Ont. – The Grey Bruce OPP detachment is working to hire an in-house mental health worker to complement their police services.

Grey Bruce OPP is the only detachment in the OPP West Region without an embedded mental health clinician, although they do have access to mental health workers who provide telephone support to people in crisis, and in-person support when possible.

“We currently have available to our officers, if they require a mental health clinician, a 24/7, 1-800 number that we can call that have clinician staffing,” interim Detachment Commander Insp. Debra Anderson said. Embedded mental health clinicians directly assist police in their work with people in crisis.

The detachment is partnering with the Grey Bruce chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) to work on creating the role.

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The Grey Bruce CMHA has partnered with other police departments in the past to hire embedded mental health clinicians. In September, they appointed a worker for the Owen Sound Police.

Anderson said aside from directly benefiting people in crisis, embedded mental health clinicians can ease pressure on the police and hospitals alike.

“The benefit of having a clinician attend with an officer if it’s safe to do so is, oftentimes, the clinician was properly trained in mental health issues and how to deal with somebody that’s in crisis,” Anderson said. “They can often deal with them as an outpatient, or they may have already an open file on that person and know who their assigned clinician is, and they also can navigate through the mental health system much easier than officers can.”

With the aid of mental health clinicians, officers may be freer to continue their work without having to remain with patients in a hospital emergency room.

“As far as the policing side goes, from our perspective, we often have to guard a patient if there is an escape risk, or if they’re combative, and so that ties up the officers dealing with that patient until they’re seen by a doctor,” Anderson said. “I think any time we can avoid an apprehension of someone it’s a great benefit for all.”

The Grey Bruce OPP received 523 mental health calls for service in 2020.

Amanda Ain-Johnson, a crisis worker who spends two days a week with the Collingwood OPP, said her job expedites the process of getting people the help they need.

“One of the benefits of having a crisis worker directly on the scene is that we can kind of delve in a little bit deeper, and do a bit more of a crisis assessment that would be happening in the hospital, but we’re doing it right on scene,” she said.

“We’re supporting the person and giving them resources right then and there,” she said. “We can do referrals, we can try and set them up with some follow up appointments so that they’re hopefully not ever having to go to the emergency department. When those situations arise, we’re trying to keep people out of hospital if it’s possible – it frees up the hospital, it frees up the officers, and it’s better for the person that’s involved if we can just sort of deal with it right then and there and get them the support they need.”

The Collingwood OPP has had embedded mental health workers since 2017, and they also have a police officer, Cst. Clyde Vivian, trained specifically for mental health calls.

Ain-Johnson said police work and mental health work create a fruitful partnership.

“The situation unfolds itself and it just becomes clear who needs to take the lead. Whether Clyde needs to take the lead or I need to take the lead, sort of based on what’s happening with the person,” Ain-Johnson said.

“If I’m getting a sense from the person that there’s really no imminent risk of them being harmed and myself being harmed, and I can see that they’re maybe feeling intimidated, or they’re wondering, you know, am I in trouble because the police are here … then I’ll take the lead a little bit more. So it’s sort of this back and forth that happens.”


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