Mental health professionals to accompany Canadian police on calls for first time

It is hoped that the scheme will cut down on the number of hospital and emergency room admissions

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The Independent US

A Canadian police force will be supplemented by trained mental health professionals accompanying officers on calls for the first time.

Under the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response team, launched on Sunday, officers in Hamilton, Ontario, are accompanied by a mental health worker should they believe the call involves someone with a mental health problem.

It is hoped that the programme, which runs from 10am to 1pm seven days a week, will decrease the number admitted to hospital emergency rooms as skilled professionals may be able to deescalate the situation on the scene.

During the 15-month pilot programme Hamilton Police Service reported there was a 50 per cent drop in the number apprehensions under the Mental Health Act.

Previously, officers would have to take individuals to hospitals or local police stations where a mental health worker would then be brought in to assess the person.

"It's been an interesting experience," Sarah Burtenshaw, a mental health professional who has worked alongside the Canadian force for the past several months.

"I think it's been successful in terms of people getting the right help at the right time," she told Canadian news channel CTV News.

Roughly 400 Hamilton police officers also receive 40 hours of specialised training, including crisis and suicide intervention, as well as assistance training. Eventually the training will be extended to the entire – 800 strong – police force.

The scheme mirrors a similar UK one. A year-long scheme trialled by the Metropolitan police from April last year has seen mental health professionals accompany police on visits in two London boroughs, Lambeth and Southwark.