(St. Catharines, July 20, 2020) – New statistics indicate that a partnership between Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Niagara Branch and the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) has proven to be an effective approach to de-escalating crisis situations, immediately assessing individuals’ mental health care needs, and connecting people with appropriate support services in the community.

The latest data shows that the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team (MCRRT) made 868 face-to-face responses with 612 people last year alone.

Of all face-to-face interactions, 623 of these calls (72 per cent) were diverted from hospitals into appropriate community supports.

In fact, MCRRT diversions led to 688 connections to various mental health or addictions services. Additionally, 717 of these interactions (83 per cent) were de-escalated without the need for police apprehension.

The MCRRT was established in 2015, in response to the growing number of mental health and addictions-related calls received by the NRPS. This co-response program with CMHA Niagara pairs a mental health professional with a specially-trained, uniformed officer to respond to 911 mental health calls.

The MCRRT operates daily from noon to midnight in St. Catharines and Thorold and both partners would like to see the program run throughout the region.

The mental health worker and police officer work as a team to:

  • Assess, triage, de-escalate and provide resources to individuals in a mental health or addictions-related crisis
  • Divert individuals from unnecessary hospital emergency department visits and involvement with the justice system
  • Mitigate strain on police resources
  • Determine appropriate links to community services
  • Improve individual and caregiver experiences
  • Decrease stigma of individuals living with mental health and/or addictions issues
  • Build and maintain effective partnerships between police services and health care agencies

Between 2015 and 2019, the MCRRT:

  • Made 3,803 face-to-face interactions, serving 2,783 people
  • Facilitated 2,986 connections to service
  • Diverted 2,790 calls from hospital stays (73 per cent)
  • De-escalated 3,194 calls without apprehension (84 per cent)

“As part of the MCRRT for more than five years, I’ve had the privilege to help so many individuals that otherwise would have never walked through the doors of a mental health agency,” said CMHA Niagara Clinical Supervisor Brandy Sand. “There are countless calls that I’ve been on where the situation required both the expertise of a mental health worker and the protection and safety provided by a police officer. Everyone can benefit from someone who will listen and help on their worst day. This is why I do what I do.”

“The Niagara Regional Police Service has long advocated that mental health crises are a medical issue and these situations are best dealt with by a health professional,” said NRPS Chief of Police Bryan MacCulloch. “Our MCRRT partnership with CMHA Niagara ensures an informed, empathetic response at a time when people are most vulnerable.We’ve seen great success with our MCRRT program, with the vast majority of these mental health calls leading to community support connections and diversions from hospitals and the justice system. We would welcome the expansion of the program to better serve the needs of our community.”

“In response to an emergency 911 situation, to maximize the best outcome for individuals in crisis and ensure safety for all, a co-response model is necessary,” said CMHA Niagara Executive Director Tara McKendrick. “The ability to partner with police to combine the skills and knowledge of each role has resulted in data that proves tremendous successes. We’re grateful for the team we have currently, and our partnership with the NRPS to respond to our community needs, and are hopeful the successes will support an expansion of additional hours and availability in other municipalities in the near future.”