Number of mental health crisis calls climbing in Brampton

 

Over the past two years, much attention has been paid to the climbing violent crime rate in Brampton and Mississauga (and the GTA overall), but not as much ink has been spilt about the increase in mental health-related calls that police have had to handle. 

Now, police are working to create a resource dedicated to managing people in distress in the Region of Peel. 

On Feb. 21, Peel Regional Police hosted the official launch of the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team (MCRRT) in collaboration with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) - Peel Dufferin.

According to police, MCRRT responds to calls for service where mental health concerns and/or crises are identified. 

Police say the initiative was launched due to the rise in mental health-related occurrences over the past several years.

In 2015, Peel police had 4,488 people apprehended under the Mental Health Act, and the numbers climbed to 5,796 in 2019. 

It is estimated that in 2017, Peel police spent $1,794,000 in police salaries waiting in emergency rooms with apprehended individuals.

With the launch of the MCRRT teams, police say they hope to divert patients from emergency rooms to ensure that they receive the most appropriate services they need, at that particular time. 

"This program, as seen in our neighbouring policing jurisdictions, is an effective way to deal with the ever-increasing calls for service involving those persons suffering from mental health challenges or in an addictions related crisis," the CMHA said on its website. 

Indeed, Peel police aren't the only law enforcement service to have a unit dedicated to mental health-related calls. The Toronto Police Service has Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams, which can be called after first responders assess the danger of a situation involving a person in crisis. The Ottawa Police Service also has a Mental Health Unit.

"As home to one of the largest mental health and addictions programs and one of the busiest emergency departments in the province, Osler is pleased about this new partnership between Peel Regional Police and Canadian Mental Health Association Peel Dufferin," said Kiki Ferrari, executive vice president, clinical operations, William Osler Health System, in a statement.

"Over the years, we have continued to see an increase in the number of mental health patients visiting our emergency departments, and we support the work of the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team in helping patients connect to and receive mental health services in the setting that best meets their needs."

On its website, the CMHA says the program has a crisis worker (such as a registered nurse, registered social worker or occupational therapist) who is teamed up with a specially trained police officer to respond to situations involving individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.

According to the CMHA, this crisis worker will be wearing clearly distinguishable body armour and will be attending front line priority calls for service. 

CMHA says the primary goal of the MCRRT program is to provide an on-site assessment of the client, referring that person when appropriate to community-based services rather than transporting them to a hospital's emergency room.

The organization says other police services throughout Ontario have seen significant reductions in the number of Mental Health Act apprehensions once their programs were implemented.

Peel Police Chief Nishan Duriappah also spoke out in favour of the project. 

"The care and wellbeing of all citizens in the region of Peel is our number one priority, the inception of the MCRRT teams ensures that the patients, family and friends can have a better peace of mind that their loved ones will be cared for in a timely and professional manner," Duriappah said in a statement. 

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