(Woodstock, ON, September 4, 2018) – The Oxford Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Woodstock Police Service and Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Oxford have joined together in a two-year pilot project to improve the response for people experiencing a mental health crisis.
Beginning this fall, a new mobile crisis intervention program called MHEART, also known as the Mental Health Engagement and Response Team, will be available in Oxford County.
MHEART consists of CMHA crisis workers embedded with Oxford OPP and Woodstock Police.
A crisis worker will accompany officers on mental health calls for service and can help police de-escalate a situation, determine whether there’s a need to apprehend someone under the Mental Health Act or divert an individual to community-based mental health supports.
Partners believe MHEART will be particularly useful in chronic cases where an individual may need long-term mental health intervention and connection with community resources.
“Addressing a person’s mental health or addictions issue requires the right response, by the right professional at the right time,” said Mike McMahon, Executive Director, CMHA Oxford. “Having the resources available during a crisis call is critical to de-escalating a situation as is following up with that person to make sure they get access to appropriate community supports.”
Oxford OPP is pleased to partner in MHEART as it aligns with the organization’s overall Mental Health Strategy. The strategy commits the OPP to stronger mental health supports for its personnel as well as people in the community.
“Increasing referrals to mental health services, enhancing training for frontline responders and developing these types of collaborative response models are key pillars in the OPP strategy,” said Inspector Tony Hymers, Detachment Commander, Oxford OPP. “Today’s announcement exemplifies our commitment to improve our response to the mental health needs of the individuals we serve.”
Having crisis workers alongside police will lead to fewer emergency room visits, which frees up hospital resources and officers’ time, since they’re required to remain with the individual apprehended under the Act.
“MHEART certainly allows for a more efficient mobilization of local services which ultimately leads to a better outcome for the community,” said Woodstock Police Chief Bill Renton. “This means that individuals in crisis will receive more appropriate care while freeing up officers to do what they do best and that’s focusing on community safety.”
MHEART is funded for two years by a Proceeds of Crime Frontline Policing Grant, which comes from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Partners hope results from the pilot will allow them to apply for ongoing sustainability funding for MHEART to make it a permanent service.