A St. John's man has questioned the effectiveness of Eastern Health's Mental Health Crisis Team after being told they are not always available to help.

Jeff Baggs said he got a shock on Tuesday when he phoned the mental health line to get help for a friend who was in crisis.

"I spoke with a gentleman there who was really kind, supportive and helpful, but he informed me the on-site crisis intervention team only works Wednesday to Sunday," said Baggs. 

'We reviewed statistics, and the Wednesday through Saturday evenings were our busiest time when people were coming in crisis, so we went with those times' - Isobel Keefe of Eastern Health

"I asked him what happens if there's an emergency on a Monday or a Tuesday — but he didn't really have an answer for that."

Baggs was advised to then contact the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

"The police came, they responded really quickly. They were really effective, they were polite, they were gentle. They talked to everybody involved," he said.

"It's not my intention to say a bad thing about the police at all, not about the staff of the crisis line, not about any particular individual — but there's a systematic bump there where there are services that are required on an emergency basis that just aren't available at certain times."

Hours reflect when services needed most

Baggs' friend was not deemed to be a threat to herself or others, and was not voluntarily seeking help, so there was little the RNC could do.

"The police couldn't actually make that determination without there being some sort of public safety threat or an issue of property. Police approach problems from the framework of the law as opposed to health  but we needed a health care professional in that moment," said Baggs

Isobel Keefe

Isobel Keefe is the regional director for Eastern Health's Mental Health and Addictions Program. (CBC)

While the crisis team can act in such situations, it is not available seven days a week. 

Isobel Keefe, the regional director of Eastern Health's Mental Health and Addictions Program, said the team's hours are not based on a lack of money.

"We reviewed statistics, and the Wednesday through Saturday evenings were our busiest time when people were coming in crisis, so we went with those times," Keefe said. 

Meanwhile, Baggs said by the end of the whole ordeal he felt frustrated.

"Health care sent me to the police. The police said there was nothing they could do, so I was forced at the end of a sort of long conversation with a lot of people at the end of the day having to watch my friend walk away on the street."

Eastern Health is currently reviewing its mobile crisis unit, but will not say if its hours of operations are part of that review.