‘Huge increase’ in O.P.P. mental health calls in South Glengarry

Staff Sgt. Norm Lamontagne, the operations manager for the SD&G O.P.P., speaks to South Glengarry council on Monday, May 7, 2018. Lamontagne has flagged a huge increase in mental health calls in the township on the same week the provincial force is recognizing Mental Health Week. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

SOUTH GLENGARRY – As the provincial police force recognizes Mental Health Week, SD&G O.P.P. have flagged a noticeable jump in the amount of mental health calls they’re attending in the township.

Staff Sgt. Norm Lamontagne, operations manager for the SD&G O.P.P., shared crime stats for the first four months of 2018 with township council Monday night.

While the township has been below the United Counties average in a number of crime categories, there’s a troubling increase in mental health calls for such things as threats and suicide.

“We’ve had 19 (mental health calls) so far this year compared to 10 last year, which is 90 per cent increase,” Lamontagne said.

In SD&G, the number of calls in the first four months was 77 or approximately 12.8 calls per county.

“So there’s a huge increase. There’s different strategies right now being looked at by our community safety officer to try to improve. Those are…it’s not pro-active we have to react as it comes to us,” the officer said.

Lamontagne suggested a plan to have mental health partners deal with cases where O.P.P. are showing up time and time again.

“Sometimes an officer goes, three, four, five, six times to the same place. If we engage the right people, at the end of the day, this might not be a police (issue) but more a medical help, people from the medical field to help out,” Lamontagne explained.

He said the idea is being tried out in other areas of the province.

South Glengarry is at or below the SD&G average in the first four months of 2018 when it comes to traffic collisions (89), RIDE checks (34), impaired driving (0), fraud (12), mischief (6), assaults (6), sexual assaults (2), domestic disputes (15) and drug offences (4).

The township was slightly above on thefts (23) and B&Es (6), which the officer described as a crime trend not specific to South Glengarry.

“There’s a lot of under average which is really good. It shows that it’s safe to be in South Glengarry pretty much,” Lamontagne said.

O.P.P. responded to 1,130 calls in South Glengarry so far this year, compared to 782 during the same period last year.

While the information wasn’t readily available, Coun. Lyle Warden was curious to know how many of the 89 collisions were on Highway 401. Warden speculated it could be 80 or 90 per cent of those calls.

Coun. Trevor Bougie wanted to know why the number of calls were up about 400. Mental health calls take a toll on front line policing, Lamontagne answered.

This week is the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week. The O.P.P. in Orillia highlighted its ongoing support through its program entitled “Mental Health Strategy: Our People, Our Communities.”

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