Middlesex OPP get funding to double support workers during mental health calls
March 18, 2022 By Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Mar. 17, 2022, London, Ont. – With nearly $93,000 in new provincial funding, Middlesex OPP plan to expand their crisis support team to help with an increasing number of mental health and addiction calls.
The local OPP is one of 28 units across Ontario to receive a portion of $4 million for such programs. The service will add a second mental health worker to its Middlesex crisis rapid response team.
“We’ve had a lot of success with the program,” said Dean Croker, Middlesex OPP detachment commander.
“This grant will allow us to have a clinician work full-time, essentially dealing with all the follow-up calls and making sure all the referrals are made,” to ensure an individual in crisis is connected to support services.
The grant comes as the service sees a steep rise in mental health- and addiction-related calls.
“Over the last few years, as a result of COVID, we have seen an increase with mental health calls,” Croker said.
With calls “continuously going up, it only makes sense that the follow-up work has gone up as well. Having that additional mental health employee with us . . . will ensure that the proper care is given.”
Since it launched in 2020, the Middlesex crisis response team – in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association Thames Valley Addiction and Mental Health Services – has responded to 1,500 calls and follow-up calls involving people in crisis. In 2021, the team attended 125 calls and made 924 follow-up calls to such individuals and their families.
Mental health workers on the team assess, triage and de-escalate situations involving people in the Middlesex region who are struggling with mental health or addiction. On top of conducting wellness checks and connecting individuals with resources, they also offer education and training to police, which Croker noted is especially useful for times when a mental health worker is not on duty.
One of the program’s key benefits, Croker said, “is the number of diversions from the hospital,” which help provide immediate assistance to those in crisis without adding strain on hospitals and police.
Over the last year, the team diverted 84 people in crisis from going to the hospital – avoiding what is typically a three-hour wait in the emergency room where police must remain with the person in crisis until they are seen by medical personnel. That amounts to saving 46 12-hour shifts for police, Croker said.
Funding for the second mental health worker kicks in April 1 and ends March 31, 2023.
With two employees working – one focused on responding to calls and the other on follow-ups – the police force can better support those who are struggling while also ensuring officers can respond to other concerns in the community, Croker said.
– The London Free Press
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