Niagara organization wants EMS, not police, to handle mental health calls

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Published February 24, 2023 at 12:31 pm

Saleh Waziruddin, an executive member of the Niagara Region Anti-Racism Association, (shown here at a previous meeting) wants a special Niagara EMS team to answer mental health calls rather than the police.

The Niagara Region Anti-Racism Association (NRARA) is pushing Niagara Region to send EMS workers rather than the police to answer potential mental health calls.

The group brought 50 letters to last night’s (Feb. 23) Niagara Regional Council meeting, all supporting the call to have Niagara EMS’ Mental Health and Addictions Response Team (MHART) respond to mental health calls, rather than the Niagara Police.

Saleh Waziruddin, an executive committee member of the Niagara Region Anti-Racism Association, said, “MHART already takes 911 calls and aren’t backed up at hospitals.”

“They reduced hospital visits by five per cent in their first year and can reduce police calls. If it’s easier said than done, it still needs to be done because the Region needs to make the right choice for mental health and welfare check calls.”

At the core of the NRARA’s campaign is their belief that the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of colour) community fares more poorly than the white community in confrontations with the police.

However, they added their movement could possibly save the region money, pointing out, “This won’t increase taxes and could lower them as EMS is cheaper than police.”

Waziruddin said the letters of support for their campaign came from residents living in six of the 12 Niagara municipalities: Fort Erie, Port Colborne, Niagara Falls, Welland, St. Catharines, and Lincoln.

The NRARA, founded in the summer of 2018, “campaigns on police reforms, municipal anti-racism committees, employment equity, organizes speaker series and workshops, and supports individuals under racist attacks.”

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