A new mental health care model that will help patients receive the care they need while allowing police officers to concentrate on their duties will be unveiled this week, according to a news release from Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci.
The new model, which will be available seven days a week beginning Oct. 1, will enhance the existing mental health services located at 127 Cedar St. by offering more staff, longer hours of operation and a mobile unit that will travel to people’s homes seven days a week. In addition to the increasing access to mental health services for people living in Sudbury, it is designed to decrease the amount of time police officers spend waiting with individuals in the hospital’s emergency department.
Currently, officers can spend up to three hours with mental health patients taken to hospital, Greater Sudbury Police Chief Frank Elsner told Northern Life in a previous interview. These people aren't criminals, but police services are the only agencies operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week that are able to deal with those calls.
Officers are mandated under the Mental Health Act to remain with a mental health patient until they receive medical treatment. These calls typically require a minimum of two officers. Having to wait with the patient takes those officers away from other policing duties.
“This is an alternative that will help prevent mental health patients from clogging up the emergency room, it will provide a better level of service for them, and it frees up policing resources,” Elsner said in a March 13 interview with Northern Life. “Police officers should not be dealing with mental health patients outside of transporting them to where they need to be. There are people who are much more qualified to do that, and the best we can do is put a Band-aid on it, and get them to the people who can help them.”
The province is investing $593,000 into the program. A portion of the funds will see the addition of eight new staff including nurses, social workers, support staff and a mental health patient navigator. The patient navigator will be stationed in the emergency department to help guide patients to the new location, provide support to family members, and help patients access primary care services when necessary.
“This is very much a community-developed initiative with backing from our government,” said Bartolucci. “Together, we are providing greater access to care for those who need it.”
The Community Crisis Intervention Model involves the North East Local Health Integration Network, Canadian Mental Health Association, Health Sciences North, and Greater Sudbury Police Service.
It also aims to bring services into the community and closer to where they need it, provide new training for officers on how to handle crisis calls, facilitate new information sharing between key community partners, and ease emergency department wait times and the flow of patients through Health Sciences North.
Elsner said many other police agencies are looking closely at Sudbury's model and, depending on its success, they would implement something similar in their own areas.