Sudbury’s police chief is praising a new mental health strategy that will see mental health patients directed away from emergency services and toward community-based organizations.

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Sudbury Police Chief Frank Elsner says a new mental health crisis service model for Sudbury is "groundbreaking." (CBC)

Chief Frank Elsner said he's spent his entire career fighting to alleviate the strain mental health calls puts on policing and will watch with interest as program begins to unfold next week. He said it will alleviate stress on police officers who are required to take patients to the emergency department.

"To be in the community that is piloting this is phenomenal," he said.

"My colleagues from across the country are now looking at this, just to see what works, and fine-tune the program as we go on."

New options

The new services will be helpful to mental health patients like Arvind Jagessar who, when he is experiencing a crisis, his only choice is to call 9-1-1.

"I'm kind of embarrassed about it, I'm ashamed, I have trouble speaking, I feel very very low mood," he said.

When Jagessar calls, police are immediately dispatched. If officers are worried about Jagessar's safety, they will escort him to the emergency room.

They will sit with him in the waiting room, for about 6 hours, until he's seen by a healthcare professional.

"It takes a lot of time, there's not a lot of privacy," Jagessar said. "It's a bit uncomfortable."

Starting Monday, Jegessar will have new options for those times when he's scared for his safety.

He can call a crisis centre that will dispatch a mobile unit to his home or he can visit the mental health crisis centre downtown.

Elsner called the new mental health crisis model "groundbreaking."

"This is something I never thought we would see, in my career lifetime," he said, noting that his colleagues hope Sudbury has found a province-wide solution for the stress mental health-related calls are putting on police services.

The Mental Health Centre on Cedar Street has hired seven new staff members to help with mental health patients and the mobile crisis unit will also move to the downtown site.