Don Depratto and A/Sgt. Blanchette in a cruiser. Courtesy Photo

SD&G – The Stormont Dundas and Glengarry (SD&G) Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the Cornwall Community Hospital and the United Counties of Stormont Dundas and Glengarry have launched an innovative partnership to provide mental health expertise and responsive care.

Mental health-related calls continue to rise in SD&G and the severity of the mental health concerns that police encounter are increasingly more complex.

The new Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT) will provide early intervention for those who need it. People, not knowing who else to turn to in a mental health crisis, have typically called the police. Previously, police had few options in this type of call.

Now police and a trained medical professional, working together, have options. SD&G OPP community mobilization officer, Jim Blanchette stated that “he is thrilled to see the program underway after two years of hard work, and that after only a couple of weeks there has already been some great work done by the team.”

Since Sept. 28, members of the OPP have been patrolling with mental health nurse Don Depratto from the Cornwall Community Hospital.

The team responds 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. Don describes this partnership as “the perfect blend of two professions working together for the community.” 

From 2007 to 2018, mental health related calls for service to the OPP increased by 42 per cent. During the same period, the time officers spent responding to these incidents increased by 65 per cent.

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 says he “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.”