SOUTH GLENGARRY, Ontario – During a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 7, the Township of South Glengarry Council received a presentation from the SD&G detachment of the OPP about their Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT).
In Sept. 2020, the SD&G OPP detachment launched their MCRT, which sees a mental health nurse from the Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH) respond to mental health crisis calls to help deescalate tense situations and provide support to responding officers.
A year into this program, and Detachment Commander Insp. Marc Hemmerick and A/Sgt. Jim Blanchette told Council that the program was a success and had helped reduce the number of mental health calls, as well as the amount of time their officers were spending on such calls.
“In the old days, we’d go to a call and it was horrible. You could either apprehend the person if the authority existed, or kind of leave and give a little advice and support the family as best you could, but it certainly wasn’t enough,” said Blanchette. “It is great now. You go to the call, connections are made, services are offered. Sometimes they aren’t accepted that day, but it is amazing later on they are calling us back and they looking for some help.”
Typically, a mental health call would require an OPP officer to take an individual in crisis to a hospital Emergency Room, often against their will, and spend hours with them.
According to data gathered by the SD&G detachment of the OPP, over the past year their officers have spent nearly two hours less on average at the hospital with subjects of crisis calls, and involuntary trips to the hospital were down 42.5 per cent.
“It is amazing. It has de-stigmatized that feeling of criminality away from people. We are treating people in a more humane modern fashion,” Blanchette said.
In all, this saved time has also saved money equal to the annual salary of one OPP Constable.
Hemmerick and Blanchette asked the Township of South Glengarry to write a letter of support on their behalf as they seek funding from the province to make the MCRT program permanent and sustainable.
“I wanted to commend yourselves and everyone who’s been involved in the program,” said Councillor Stephanie Jaworski.
South Glengarry Deputy Mayor Lyle Warden said that providing a letter of support would be something that Council would be happy to do.