SD&G O.P.P. ask county to fund mental health team again

Nurse Don Depratto and Const. Jim Blanchette sit inside a cruiser during the launch of the SD&G O.P.P. Mobile Crisis Response Team. The O.P.P. has asked county council to fund the program for another year as it's run into trouble finding money from senior governments. (SD&G O.P.P. via Newswatch Group)

SD&G – While showing promising results, SD&G O.P.P. say they need more money from the county to run its Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT) because other funding avenues are not working out.

The team sees a police officer paired with a nurse to answer mental health calls.

Const. Jim Blanchette shared statistics with county council this morning (Feb. 16) showing involuntary arrests during mental health calls dropped 42 per cent since the program began in September 2020 while diversions were up 45 per cent.

Officers are also spending less time sitting in a hospital waiting room. The average time has dropped from 2.9 hours to 30 minutes per mental health call.

Overall, the number of mental health calls has actually had a “very slight increase” though Blanchette believes it’s “skewed due to COVID.”

“I honestly believe the program is more effective than the data would show,” Blanchette said.

“I’ve never stopped loving this program,” Blanchette said, referring to a case on the first day involving a suicidal woman that would have led to an arrest. Instead, the nurse was able to get the person the resources they needed.

While the Mobile Crisis Response Team has received praise, it’s having difficulty finding money from provincial or federal government and that’s why Blanchette was asking the county to fund the program again.

“I’m not here through a lack of trying,” Blanchette explained.

Any funding sources from senior governments would not be doing intakes until November with money not coming until March 2022.

The county will discuss it during their budget meeting later today (Monday).

The MCRT costs $120,000 a year.

“I wish I was surprised by the uptake, but I’m not,” Coun. Kirsten Gardner (South Dundas) said, noting this program will always be needed in the United Counties.

Coun. Allan Armstrong (North Dundas) says he had some trepidation about it when it was first proposed but believes in the program that’s “not breaking our backs” financially.

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