Sudbury police, Health Sciences North partner to form mobile crisis team

Changes are coming to how police in Sudbury respond to people experiencing mental health or addiction-related crises.

The Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team aims to put clinicians, crisis specialists on calls with police

Sudbury police and Health Sciences North are partnering on a project called the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team, which will see mental health and addiction clinicians accompany police on crisis calls. (Shutterstock)

Changes are coming to how police in Sudbury respond to people experiencing mental health or addiction-related crises.

Starting this week, a designated crisis worker from Health Sciences North will accompany officers on those calls.

The program, called the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team, is a joint partnership between Greater Sudbury Police Services and Health Sciences North.

Matt Hall, a sergeant with Sudbury police, said in 2020, officers responded to 530 mental health calls – a 37 per cent increase from the year before.

Hall says having a crisis worker on hand will help with those calls.

"Prior to this point, when police responded to mental health calls or addiction calls, police would attend on their own – a minimum of two officers make assessments from the scene," Hall said. 

"At that point, they either make an apprehension under the Mental Health Act to bring the individual to either HSN or the crisis centre downtown at Cedar Street to seek some medical help."

Officers also can attempt to liaise with families or community groups to support the individuals in crisis. 

As part of MCRRT, officers will still be attending the call to ensure that the clinician, and the area they are working in, is safe.

 "I do think it will settle peoples' nerves down –  there's some anxiety with police showing up in uniform," Hall said.

"But our officers are very good at de-escalation...we can de-escalate those situations and then make the referral or introduce the clinician and provide a safe environment for the clinician to do their job and and then make sure that the individual in crisis gets the support they require." 

The new approach will allow the experts – people trained in dealing with people in specific types of crisis – to do their work.

"It just provides a more efficient way of doing business for police and HSN," Hall said.

Officers, so far, have been supportive about the introduction of the MCRRT, Hall said.

"We deal with a lot of people that are in crisis where we might not not necessarily have the full training of a social worker or a nurse," he said. "And we've always handled these matters professionally in the best way we can."

"But now having this individual there to assist us in these decisions when dealing with people in crisis and offering their support and services, the officers are very excited to see this program."