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Mental health-related police calls on the rise

Almost 2,000 apprehensions made by Durham police over the last year

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

With calls related to mental health on the rise, Durham police have been working to help those in need.

According to the report given to the region’s police services board, between September 2018 and August 2019, there were 1,801 calls to DRPS where mental health was a factor.

The calls resulted in 1,976 apprehensions under the Mental Health Act, involving 1,462 people.

Of those apprehended, 259 were taken in more than once. The report notes the DRPS Mental Health Support Unit, which combines a specially-trained officer and a nurse from Lakeridge Health, offers immediate help to people in crisis.

It also points out about 16 per cent of all Mental Health Act calls involve suicide.

The unit saw an average of 128 mental health calls per month, including 36 chronic callers it deals with on a daily basis.

Board member Karen Fisher wondered if there are certain communities which have at least as many chronic callers, or more.

She wondered if it is possible to find a way to help those in need by looking at the practices of other agencies.

Staff noted they do speak with other agencies on how to best deal with chronic callers.

“In most cases… it’s largely not a police matter. So what we’re trying to do is redirect the people to the proper agencies so they can get the support they need,” explained inspector Tim Maw, who is in charge of the community safety branch.

Scugog Mayor Bobbie Drew pointed out the current method takes a lot of time and resources, and isn’t getting to the root of the problem.

But, she’s happy to hear DRPS is investigating how it can be resolved by reaching out to other agencies.

Board chair and Pickering regional councillor Kevin Ashe asked about the success of the Durham Connect program, and was told it’s been a success.

Durham Connect is a program which aims to allow      agencies to work together to help people in situations of acute elevated risk    associated with mental health.

From Sept. 1, 2018 to Sept. 1, 2019 Durham Connect saw 62 cases, with 68 per cent of them being resolved.

“What we do find is that..  the top four or five issues that we see on a regular basis that bring people to the attention of Durham Connect involve mental health,” Maw told Ashe.

Yet, at times situations don’t always reach the acute elevated risk, which is determined by Durham Connect officials.