Ottawa police and area shelters are calling for more resources to help people with mental health issues before they end up in crisis.

In 2011 police said they responded to more than 4,000 calls that were related to a mental health issue, up 40 per cent from 2010.

Police say because people aren't getting the services they need earlier, the police end up dealing with them as they investigate criminal activity.

Charles Bordeleau, the deputy chief of police, said taxpayers should be aware there is a better way.

"We need to as a community provide more investment in our health care system," said Bordeleau.

Shepherds of Good Hope director Paul Soucie said the rise in clients with mental health issues is also overwhelming for the shelters.

Costly process, say shelters

He said many people are cycling between emergency rooms, jail and then the shelter.

"They are being touched by the police they are being touched by the emergency shelters, by the emergency hospitals... it's probably costing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year," said Soucie.

"So we're using all these services... day after day after day when it isn't necessary."

Luc Villemaire, the director at the Gatineau shelter Git Ami said he is also seeing a rise in violence and addiction problems at the centre. He said the problems begin once people with mental health issues are forced onto the streets.

"It's not mental health it's the state in the streets," said Villemaire. "When you're in survival mode, you take on behaviours that are not normal."

Institutions shut down without support to follow

When mental health institutions in the province shut down in the 1990s, governments promised money for services that would follow patients into the community.

But that didn't happen, said University of Ottawa psychologist Tim Aubry, the Social Sciences Research Chair.

Aubry said while there has been progress in expanding community mental health services in the last decade, they are still playing catch-up.

"The problem is there are still not enough of them," said Aubry.

"It makes for better communities if you can bring people in from margins, if you can bring them in, and find ways to integrate and build a life," he said.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of police has joined with anti-poverty organizations to advocate for a rethink in how to deliver mental health services.