The Provincial Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee (HSJCC) has developed a new Info Guide titled, “Strategies for Implementing Effective Police-Emergency Department Protocols in Ontario.” The purpose of this Info Guide is to assist police services and hospitals in Ontario to reduce emergency department (ED) wait-times for police officers who are accompanying individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. The Info Guide provides an overview of the key issues relating to mental health apprehensions and police-accompanied visits to the ED. In addition, strategies for establishing effective police-emergency department protocols are highlighted, as well as an inventory of protocols and resources from across Ontario.
This Info Guide was developed by a working group of the Provincial HSJCC. The information contained in this document was compiled through a call for information which was distributed through the HSJCC Network to municipal and provincial police services, hospital staff, and providers of community mental health, addictions and other human services across the province.
Clear, consistent communication is the key to reducing wait-times.
According to the HSJCC, a central theme emerged from the survey responses – the need for clear and consistent communication with respect to mental health apprehension situations. The Info Guide states that police officers, hospital staff and community care providers identified several strategies for reducing wait-times for police accompanied visits to the ED, including:
- Building strong relationships between police services and hospitals;
- Providing cross-sectoral training for police services and hospital staff about mental health apprehension situations;
- Calling ahead to the ED when a police officer is en route with a person experiencing a mental health crisis;
- Establishing clear lines of communication upon arrival at the ED;
- Utilizing a mental health screener form to communicate information about the circumstances and observations about the person in crisis;
- Arranging a quiet room for police-accompanied visitors to the ED;
- Having adequate staff support to manage mental health crisis situations in the ED;
- Designating a liaison in the ED to work directly with police officers when they arrive with a person in crisis;
- Establishing a written agreement between police detachments and hospitals that sets out procedures, expectations and respects patient rights;
- Conducting routine monitoring and evaluation of the protocol in place, and making changes as necessary; and
- Ensuring person-centred care.