Coordinating Policing and Mental Health Care Interventions

Delegates at today’s Large Urban Communities Forum heard success stories from the front lines of mental health and policing. A collaborative approach between police and health care and social workers is diverting psychiatric emergency calls to special team units, reducing hospital intakes and helping match clients to the services they most need.

Corporal Taylor Quee, with the Police Mental Health Intervention Unit, described the kinds of mental health crises that police respond to every day. Often severely addicted or mentally ill clients will call 9-1-1, receive emergency services and/or extended hospital care, be discharged, and then repeat the process a day, a week or a month later.

Breaking this “cycle of crisis” is the goal of the collaboration between Fraser Health and the Surrey RCMP. A similar program is under way between Northern Health and the Prince George RCMP.

Brian Jackson, a psychiatric nurse and manager of Fraser Health’s Assertive Community Treatment Team, explained how a cooperative approach between agencies can better help frequent users of hospital and police services receive appropriate care. “The key to success is engagement, outreach and a multi-disciplinary team approach,” he said.

Using a Housing-First model, caregivers patiently cultivate trust and extend this to emergency response workers, sharing client files and identifying diagnoses and patterns of behaviour. By coordinating with psychiatric nurses and social outreach workers, repeat clients are identified and can be responded to appropriately.

This effort has resulted in a 58% reduction in emergency department visits, and an 80% reduction in hospital admissions, for psychiatric reasons in Surrey.

The model has many benefits, including saving money, reducing ER congestion, freeing up police resources, decreasing homelessness and improving quality of life for clients. It can also avoid ineffective responses, which can result in higher risk situations for police, care practitioners, the public and the individuals in crisis.

A better informed, “softer touch” response from police provides clients with the least intrusive resolution to emergency situations while providing a high standard of care. The model can be adapted to any size of community, according to Quee.

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