Peel police launch mental health and addiction strategy to support agencies in Mississauga and Brampton

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Published November 30, 2021 at 11:32 am

Peel’s chief of police said the force is changing how it does business to ensure people with mental health and addiction issues in Mississauga and Brampton get “the right services at the right time.”

On Monday, Peel Regional Police (PRP) announced its new mental health and addiction strategy which will see officers work more closely with support agencies like the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMAH).

Chief Nishan Duraiappah said approximately 80 per cent of what officers deal with daily is “non-criminal activity” and calls are often “mental-health and well-being related.”

The new strategy is more than a year in the making and will see a shift away from police being the first point of contact for individuals experiencing an acute mental health crisis.

“We have always known that if we can get people the right professional serve and a connection to service rather than looking at a uniform every time, we’re almost always serving the public better,” he said.

The new mental health strategy was developed around five key areas of focus:

  • Building on our foundation of support for mental health and addiction through strategic enhancements
  • Expanding our knowledge base of mental health and addiction through education, training and awareness opportunities
  • Enhancing our evidence base through academic research, data and ongoing evaluation
  • Focusing on the well-being of our employees
  • Ongoing collaboration, planning and action for the development of future initiatives as part of a flexible approach.

The chief said the five-point plan will see PRP change how it collaborates with human services “to mitigate future tragic crisis” and extend the safety net for people dealing with mental health and addictions.

“This, without a doubt, is strengthening that net and compelling us to work collaboratively together to off ramp these situations,” the chief said.

“I think we all agree that if we can change the outcome of one person’s life, this strategy has been a success.”

PRP says officers responded to 5,950 calls for mental health and addiction in 2020 for an average of 16 calls per day.

According to the CMHA, one in five Canadians will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime.

At least 20 per cent of people with a mental illness have a co-occurring substance abuse issue, and people dealing with substance abuse are up to three times more likely to have a mental illness.

David Smith, CEO of CMHA Peel Dufferin, said the new strategy “is a very important step forward for our community” and “formalizes efforts to make mental health a health issue rather than a policing issue.”

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