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Cops to launch mental health unit

March 29th,2023 | News

Mental health distress calls to police have more than tripled in the last decade in the Hills, but a promising new program that will send trained experts on live calls with officers aims to bring those numbers down.

The MRC des Collines Police are gearing up to launch their MAINtenir le lien program this summer — a “multi-disciplinary team” composed of mental health workers and police officers, who will work together when distress calls come into the station. The teams will be deployed to respond to specific calls together, said MRC Police Chief Martial Mallette, so that the force can better respond to mental health calls and get those in distress the help they need.

“These people who are having a mental health problem are not criminals,” said Mallette during a sit-down interview at the Wakefield station March 27. “These are mental health calls, this is very different.” He explained that the program is a direct response to the rising number of distress calls the MRC des Collines detachment has been receiving over the past few years.“We have seen a sharp increase in mental health calls since 2010 that is over 300 per cent,” added the chief. “Specifically, in the MRC, it’s one or two calls a day.”

The program is modelled off the MRC’s Maintenant Ensemble program, which pairs up police officers with social workers to respond to cases involving domestic violence. That program, launched in late 2021, has seen more than 178 interventions with case workers from La Maison Libère-Elles and has led to 55 domestic violence charges being laid, according to Mallette.

He said the Maintenant Ensemble program is helping victims feel more empowered against their attackers by immediately connecting them to case workers, who offer them support and guidance while making them feel safe to pursue charges.

“If we don’t have a team like this, those 55 [charges] would not have happened and the victims would not have received the help they needed,” he said.

Police have secured $145,000 to run the MAINtenir le lien program over the next two years and will use the money to train police officers, hire mental health workers and build the program in time to launch this summer.

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