Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay, Ont., police plan expansion of Joint Mobile Crisis Response Team program

A program that sees Thunder Bay police officers paired with crisis workers when responding to mental health calls will be expanding in the coming months.

Program sees police paired with crisis workers when responding to mental health calls

Thunder Bay police are planning to expand the Joint Mobile Crisis Response Team program in the new year. (Christina Jung / CBC)

A program that sees Thunder Bay police officers paired with crisis workers when responding to mental health calls will be expanding in the coming months.

Police Chief Sylvie Hauth told the Thunder Bay Police Services Board on Tuesday that funding from the Northwest Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) has been secured to expand the Joint Mobile Crisis Response Team program in the new year.

"We are hoping to start a pilot project as of January 4, 2021, which will be the model of one officer riding with one crisis worker in one vehicle responding to calls," Hauth said. "We will have a 24/7 coverage."

Currently, the Joint Mobile Crisis Response Team operates 12 hours a day, from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Under the existing model, police respond to mental health calls and call in a team of two crisis workers if needed; the crisis workers can take over the call as necessary.

Next year's planned pilot project will retain the team of two crisis workers, but they'll operate a bit differently, Hauth said.

"What we will have access to once the pilot project is up and running is what we call a soft team," she said. "Between the hours of 2 a.m. and 2 p.m., we will still have a crisis team of two crisis workers that will be available. So, should the officer and the crisis worker team need to do a hand off, they can go to the next call."

In addition, Hauth said, the program has access to five crisis beds through the Canadian Mental Health Association, which will ease pressure on the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre emergency department.

"It means we do not have to sit at the [emergency department] and can divert through those crisis beds," she said.

Hauth said the LHIN has committed to funding the pilot project for one year. However, the hope is the pilot would be extended, or made permanent, should the demand be there, the police services board heard Tuesday.

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