Waterloo Region Record

Police partner with regional hospitals in plan to identify and assist those in crisis

- JOHANNA WEIDNER jweidner@therecord.com Twitter: @WeidnerRec­ord

— Waterloo Region’s police and hospitals are already working together on better transition­s for people suffering a mental health crisis, ahead of a new directive from the province.

“We’re already way ahead on this,” said Christine McLellan, program director of adult mental health and addictions at Grand River Hospital. “We’ve been working closely with police for a number of years.”

Minister of Health Christine Elliott announced earlier this month a new framework and tool kit for local hospitals and police to use together to cut down on time officers wait in emergency department­s supervisin­g people in crisis.

Sometimes police will stay with a patient for up to eight hours until they are admitted under the Mental Health Act, if they’re thought to be a danger to themselves or others.

“For a long time, this has been on our radar,” McLellan said.

The Kitchener hospital has had a police custody release policy in place for more than five years with the aim of getting officers back out in the community. Hospital staff, usually the crisis team, will work with police to gather informatio­n to determine if their presence is required. If there are no concerns around violence or aggression, the hospital will take custody.

In Waterloo Region, Grand River and Cambridge Memorial Hospital have mental health programs.

Cambridge Memorial staff meet monthly with a police supervisor to discuss issues, although they don’t have a formal transition tool.

McLellan said the hospital will have a look at the province’s recommenda­tions and seek new ideas they can incorporat­e into what they’re already doing.

Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin said the provincial framework will ensure a more efficient transfer, as well as improved care for people in crisis.

“As well, this will substantia­lly decrease the time officers need to be at a hospital for a transfer, thus allowing them to return to front-line duties to focus on community safety,” he said in a news release.

New to the region at the end of June is an electronic screening tool for police to use to understand patient needs and if they do need to go to the hospital, emergency staff are given a heads up to prepare.

“That gets sent to the hospital in advance,” McLellan said. “We would know now if they’re on the way with somebody.”

Another initiative that’s helping people in a mental health crisis is a partnershi­p between the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Associatio­n and police called IMPACT (Integrated Mobile Police and Crisis Team).

Police can call on specially trained workers to assess a person in crisis and connect them with the right services and supports, and they can follow up. Sometimes the situation that prompted the 911 call can be resolved at the scene.

“Having that support at a situation is really helpful,” said Meredith Gardiner, director of services at the associatio­n’s Waterloo Wellington branch.

The partnershi­p has resulted in 75 per cent of calls being diverted from hospitals in Waterloo Region.

“This has been really the most successful venture that we’ve had collaborat­ing,” Gardiner said.

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