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CMHA Branches speak out about mental health and policing

September 12, 2013

As local and provincial media continue to discuss the role of police in crisis response and de-escalation for people with mental health issues, several CMHA branches have shared their experiences in working with local police to serve the greater community.

Steve Lurie, Executive Director of CMHA Toronto.

Steve Lurie, Executive Director of CMHA Toronto.

CMHA Toronto Executive Director Steve Lurie spoke to CBC Radio’s Ontario Today noon-hour call-in program on mental health and policing, emphasizing the need for greater investment in mental health care.

“There’s a deficit in mental health care,” Lurie said, noting that only 1 in 3 people with a mental health issue receive services.

Services like case management, police crisis intervention teams and supportive housing make a difference in preventing violence, Lurie pointed out, and require greater funding.

The CMHA London-Middlesex mobile crisis response team is a great example on how funding for these initiatives can make a difference.

Mobile crisis response team leader Kristy Reece recently spoke to local London radio station CJBK Newstalk 1290 on how the branch’s mobile response team assists police to help individuals with mental health issues in crisis. The team consists of counsellors and social workers which respond to calls from people suffering from mental health crisis and offer solutions. People can call for help either directly to the specialized team or via 911. CMHA London-Middlesex also offers London police training on how to recognize a person in crisis and de-escalate appropriately.

The response team has received more than 700 calls since it was launched nine months ago, Reece told CJBK, and effectively referred those in crisis to the best service to help. Prior to the team’s launch, individuals in crisis would often call 911 and be connected with police first.

Listen to the complete Ontario Today interview, or download the complete CJBK interview below.

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