OPP Mobile Crisis Response Team needs SD&G support; sustainable funding not achieved one year in

SD&G OPP Insp. Marc Hemmerick (top, right) makes a virtual presentation to the United Counties of SD&G on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021 about the Mobile Crisis Response Team. The inspector is asking the county to financially support the program again in 2022 as no sustainable funding has been found. Two applications for provincial funding are in progress. (SD&G via Newswatch Group)

SD&G – While SD&G OPP have a couple of funding irons in the fire, the head of the detachment is asking county council to continue funding the Mobile Crisis Response Team.

The ask is $120,000 for 2022. The MCRT, launched in October 2020, has been supported by the county the last two budget years.

“I truly wish that I was not coming to council today to ask for a funding continuance…that I had better news,” Detachment Commander Marc Hemmerick said during a presentation Monday.

The inspector was upfront saying that he did not feel “the county should be funding (it) over the long term” and that it was a “very contentious issue” during the last request.

The Mobile Crisis Response Team is a mental health nurse from Cornwall Community Hospital paired with police to respond as a first point of contact during mental health calls.

OPP Const. Jim Blanchette shared numbers with council, calling the program “absolutely overwhelming,” “exceptional,” and that it’s exceeding expectations.

Mental health calls to OPP are around 280 this year and nearly 190 of them have been handled by the MCRT. The MCRT has also meant police officers are spending minutes instead of hours in a hospital, waiting to clear a mental health call, meaning they are out on the road sooner responding to other emergencies.

The OPP has applied to a grant through the Ministry of the Solicitor General (asking for $120,000 a year for two years) and is also putting a larger proposal together for the Ministry of Health to add staff to the team.

Most of the mental health calls have been in Glengarry and Dundas Counties and involved cases of serious mental illness or threats to others.

Warden Allan Armstrong still believes the province and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit should be funding the team but says the county made the right decision two years ago and “everyone here put their citizens ahead of politics” and that should be a source of pride.

Many councillors agree the Ontario government should be at the table.

Coun. Kirsten Gardner (South Dundas) “wholeheartedly” supports continuing the program that is “creating a climate of support for our residents that should be in every community everywhere.”

The request for money has been referred to the 2022 county budget.