October 12th, 2017 - St. Thomas Police Service (STPS) and the Canadian Mental Health
Association, Elgin Branch (CMHA) are pleased to announce a new partnership that
will improve outcomes for people experiencing a mental health crisis who come into
contact with police.
The one-year project, funded by Grants Ontario, launches this week and involves
assignment of a dedicated, full-time Mental Health Response Worker from CMHA who
will work alongside STPS officers to provide support.
STPS was inspired to seek out the grant after learning about similar programs in
Ontario that have had success. "Other police services in Ontario have seen a reduction
in repeat police calls to respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis,"
Inspector Hank Zehr of STPS reports.
"Delivering mental health services in the community promotes faster recovery for
people in crisis" says Heather DeBruyn, CMHA Executive Director. "This partnership
will allow us to intervene early and to quickly link people experiencing a mental
health crisis to community-based services."
A second goal of the program is to ensure that all STPS officers receive Mental
Health First Aid training. This program, developed by the Mental Health Commission
of Canada, is delivered by trained facilitators employed by CMHA. It helps identify
signs that someone might be experiencing a mental health crisis, and provides training
on what to do to help.
"We are hoping to build capacity amongst our officers to respond with greater awareness
and sensitivity to people experiencing a mental health crisis," says Inspector Zehr.
The program will also seek to improve internal services to officers to prevent development
of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Mental Health Response Worker will
work with the STPS peer support program to bring expertise in identifying PTSD risks
and responding early to promote officer well-being.
"PTSD has received greater attention in police services over the past few years,"
says Deputy Chief Jeff Driedger. "St. Thomas Police have done a lot of work to build
internal programs to prevent PTSD symptoms amongst our officers, and we are looking
forward to having the Mental Health Response Worker's expertise in taking those
programs to the next level."
STPS and CMHA are jointly committed to demonstrating the success of the program
during the one-year grant and securing ongoing program funding to make the program
sustainable and permanent.