MANITOULIN—Two local police services have received a share of the more than $4 million province-wide investment by the Ontario government to expand mobile crisis response teams (MCRTs). The Manitoulin detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service are both recipients of funding to increase their capacity to respond to calls from individuals experiencing a mental health or addictions crisis.
“MCRTs are best positioned to respond to people experiencing a mental health or addictions crisis and to de-escalate situations that could pose a risk to public safety,” said Sylvia Jones, Ontario’s solicitor general. “At a time when police are increasingly confronted with the need to assist vulnerable people in acute crisis situations, this new grant program will expand their ability to deliver appropriate services and underlines our government’s commitment to public safety.”
According to OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique, the OPP has observed a 42 percent increase in mental health-related calls since 2017. MCRTs consist of police officers and crisis workers working together to respond to complex situations where mental health or addictions may be a factor. Supported by the police, crisis workers determine whether an individual in crisis should be sent to an emergency department for treatment and are equipped to provide connections to community programming and supports to address an individual’s physical and mental well-being over the longer term.
“What they can do is accompany us to jointly respond to these calls or we can also have them meet us at the hospital,” said Constable Tessa Kasch.
“A lot of people think that MCRT is just for people experiencing mental illness. That’s not the case,” the constable noted. “Someone in crisis doesn’t need to have a mental illness. We engage MCRT based on what the call for service entails. These crisis workers are so knowledgeable that it allows us to utilize them to get feedback on how to handle calls and what they think might be the best response or any services that they know of, that we may not know of, to assist individuals who are in crisis.”
After the call for service has ended, the MCRTs can continue to engage with the individual afterward. “They can engage them for really anything that person does need and continue on the rapport they have built to offer them assistance,” Constable Kasch added.
By the end of 2021, approximately 80 percent of OPP detachments had implemented MCRT. “We’re very lucky to be receiving funding for an additional worker to add to hour program,” Constable Kasch said. “We’re lucky to have them and the training they have has benefited us greatly.”
MCRTs are an investment in the safety of frontline policing while ensuring that people in crisis have easier access to the mental health supports they need, where and when they need them, said Michael Tibollo, associate minister of mental health and addictions. “Through this expansion of specialized resources, we are taking critical steps toward providing better supports for individuals living with mental health and addictions challenges, including supports to help reduce their interactions with police,” he said.
The Manitoulin OPP detachment received $157,984.57 and UCCM Police received $163,125. The funding will be provided over two years, 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. A total of 28 police services received grant funding under this program.