Joint Mobile Crisis Response Team hopes to become permanent part of Thunder Bay
Program pairs police with mental health workers when responding to mental health calls
A program that pairs Thunder Bay police officers with mental health workers when responding to mental health calls in the city hopes to have permanent funding secured by the end of the year.
The Joint Mobile Crisis Response Team — a partnership between the Thunder Bay Police Service and the Canadian Mental Health Association's (CMHA) Thunder Bay chapter — launched as a pilot project in June 2018.
Since then, it's proven to be very successful, and necessary, said Jennifer Hyslop, CMHA Thunder Bay chief executive officer.
Between June 2018 and August 2019, the team responded to more than 1,500 mental health calls in Thunder Bay, she said.
"We were also able to track the number of times that we were able to divert people [from] the emergency department, because we were able to stabilize people in the community," Hyslop said. "And that number was a fairly-high percentage, 25 to 30 per cent, perhaps, of all of the calls were able to be diverted."
Hyslop said the team was about four-and-a-half years in the making, and grew out of a conversation the CMHA had with the police about the number of mental health calls officers were responding too, and how long those calls took to address.
"CMHA had the infrustructure already in place for 24-hour crisis services," she said. "We formed a steering committee with the hospital, the police and ourselves, and developed a proposal for the Northwest LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) to receive funding."
The LHIN agreed to fund a pilot, and given the program's success, Hyslop is hopeful the team will become permanent soon.
"We're currently in conversations with the Northwest LHIN around finalizing permanent funding for our current team, plus an additional team," she said.
Hyslop said the CMHA is also talking to the LHIN about funding "safe beds," which would take further pressure off the hospital.
"It would be a place, then, that the joint teams could bring somebody to who was not at acute level, but needed some stabilization for, say, 24 to 48 hours," she said. "Nothing finalized yet, with the LHIN, but certainly working hard with them to make a good plan for the community."
The team was named an outstanding community project at the 2019 Mayor's Community Safety Awards, which were presented on Monday night.