LONG SAULT – Mark Hamrick, inspector/detachment commander for the SDG OPP Detachment, staff Sgt. Simon Hardy and Const. Jim Blanchette provided council with information about mental health calls and services during the Sept. 8 South Stormont council meeting.

Hamrick spoke about the role of mobile mental health teams in responding to calls for assistance, with Blanchette and Hardy providing details on their role in SDG. Staff Sgt. Hardy explained how after researching teams in other areas and in collaboration with community stakeholders, it was decided to implement these teams locally. 

Funding was received from the United Counties of SDG to implement the program “up and running” which sought to provide “the most effective and successful resolution to calls for service.” It seeks to assist those suffering a mental health crisis as well as families locally. Initially the program involved having a registered nurse partner with an OPP officer on patrol in a Monday to Friday model, with funding from the Cornwall Community Hospital allowing for weekend coverage. It was developed as a flexible program so that it could “adapt and alter our approach as we went along” and ensure sustainability with “staffing, efficiency and funding.” The program was described as successful, and they continue to seek ways to enhance and improve the service.

Constable Blanchette explained how the program, which has surpassed all expectations, involves a collaboration between the Cornwall Community Hospital and the OPP. A registered nurse with mental health training accompanies the OPP officer, assesses the situation and can provide on-the-spot recommendations for care. 

He continued how people who need assistance are given immediate help in this program, a significant reduction in hospital wait time to get care, as well as a decrease in “repeat occurrences where police are responding” and helps to build trusting relationships. Blanchette mentioned “the community-based assessment has been shown to be the best option” with the OPP following up after incidents.

Staff Sgt. Hardy mentioned there was a three-month evaluation of the program, with it becoming fully operational in September 2020, with a registered nurse accompanying the officer which allowed clients immediate information on medical questions such as medication.

He continued there are continuing efforts to receive additional funding from the government to continue the collaborative program. It was mentioned that follow ups and referrals for medical care and assistance is one of the greatest benefits of the local system. Hardy commented he has personally seen “the improvement and growth of our members in terms of their comprehension of this specific topic.”  They are currently investigating ways to expedite the time for the client to receive treatment or counselling, with wait times at hospitals down from 2.9 hours to 1 hour on average. Involuntary apprehensions are down 42.5 per cent and diversions up 45.3 per cent which is where referrals are used.

Hamrick explained the service provided to people and their families is of utmost importance, noting medical and police services are expensive, with the success of this program providing cost reductions to the system in many areas. He commented a total OPP system saving of almost $120,000 is realized when a registered nurse with mental health training accompanies an officer on mental health calls.

Council was asked to provide a letter of support to attach to their business case which is being presented to East Health Network to “receive stable base funding” specifically given to the hospital for these teams as well as a grant application. Hamrick offered his congratulations to Hardy and Blanchette for this work in developing this program.

South Stormont council will receive a report on this request as well as recommendations for action from the administrative staff at the next meeting.