New program will help police in Mississauga and across Ontario field crisis calls

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Published August 16, 2021 at 9:28 pm

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OPP in Mississauga and across the province will soon be better equipped to help those in crisis thanks to a new $8.4-million program funded by Queen’s Park. 

The OPP Crisis Call Diversion Program, in which a professional mental health and addictions crisis worker will be embedded in all OPP Communication Centres, will help police offer the most appropriate response to calls from people experiencing a mental health or addiction crisis. That could include diverting the call to the appropriate mental health services. 

“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 Ontario 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.” 

Once assigned to an incoming call at an OPP communication centre, the crisis worker can help callers who are experiencing a crisis by providing resources and tools, offering referrals and helping them navigate the mental health system. The workers can also provide support and assist in preliminary de-escalation when a call has been assigned to a police officer, officials say. 

The program, successfully piloted by OPP London, has been helping callers with a variety of acute crisis situations including mental health and substance use issues, relationship conflicts and family matters.  

OPP Thunder Bay has jumped on board with the program as well, and it will be implemented at other communication centres across Ontario later this year, according to the Solicitor General’s office. 

The provincial government’s $8.4-million investment for the program will be delivered over three years. 

“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.”

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