The Ontario government is investing $8.4 million over three years in a new Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Crisis Call Diversion Program.
The program will help police offer the most appropriate response to calls from individuals experiencing a mental health or addictions crisis, which may include diversion to appropriate mental health services. This investment is part of the 2021 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy.
“Our government is proud to take steps to enhance care for mental health and other acute crisis situations through the Crisis Call Diversion Program,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “By offering critical crisis response services, dedicated mental health and addictions specialists will ensure individuals experiencing a crisis can access immediate supports while diverting the need for police interventions in non-emergency situations.”
The Crisis Call Diversion Program consists of a professional mental health and addictions crisis worker who will be embedded into each of the OPP Provincial Communications Centres. Once assigned to the call, the crisis worker can assist individuals experiencing a crisis by providing resources and tools, offering referrals and helping them navigate the mental health system for help. Alternatively, the crisis worker can also provide support and assist in preliminary de-escalation when a call has been assigned to a police officer.
Successfully piloted at the OPP London Communications Centre, the program has been assisting individuals who call in with a variety of acute crisis situations including, but not limited to, mental health or substance use issues, relationship conflicts and family concerns. The program has now been implemented at a second location, the OPP Thunder Bay Communications Centre, and will be implemented at additional Communications Centres later this year.
Between November 2, 2020 and June 6, 2021, crisis workers were engaged in 478 calls, 16 per cent of which were completely diverted from frontline officer response. The remaining calls required officer assistance where the crisis worker stayed on the call, assisted in preliminary de-escalation, provided support and referral to community resources or connected individuals to appropriate community services to support their needs.
“Our officers respond to thousands of mental health calls a year,” said OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique. “The Crisis Call Diversion Program not only reduces the use of police personnel for non-emergent responses when appropriate, but also helps individuals experiencing mental health crises by offering better pathways to meet their needs and supporting the de-stigmatization of mental health.”
The OPP has also created a comprehensive Crisis Call Diversion Development and Implementation Guide to share with other police services and health partners considering similar programs or initiatives.
“Mental health is health,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance. “Thousands of people experiencing mental health and addictions issues across Ontario deserve our support and access to the treatment and care they need. COVID-19 has only intensified the need for action.”
“Protecting the health and well-being of all Ontarians will always be our government’s top priority, and that includes mental health,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “We have been working collaboratively across all sectors to ensure individuals are matched with the most appropriate mental health and addictions supports that meet their unique needs. Through this investment, people who may be experiencing a mental health or addictions crisis will be further protected and fully supported in accessing the care they need, when and where they need it.”