The Mental Heath Engagement and Response Team (MHEART) program is a partnership between Oxford County OPP, the Woodstock Police Service and the Canadian Mental Health Association, which pairs on-duty police officers with a crisis worker to respond to mental-health or addiction-based emergency calls. Its goal is to keep people out of emergency rooms and to provide citizens with the help they need at the time of their call.
A more robust and practical approach for dealing with mental-health-related matters, mental-health clinicians ride in the car with officers and offer resources to the subject of the call. As these are situations where the person may be in crisis or experiencing a mental-health crisis, the clinician will often take the lead talking to the person once police have deemed the situation safe. Clinicians then follow up and help create a plan for that person.
According to the team, since the program was launched in September 2018 it has made 545 “connections” – not necessarily only calls for service – and, from there, has made over 400 referrals to community services. There were also 75 fewer people taken to the emergency as a result off MHEART’s presence on calls where police otherwise would have had to take the person to hospital to receive mental-health support.
“At the end of the day, it is all about getting the right care to the right person at the right time, and a lot of this can be done in their own home rather than us having to take them to hospital,” said Paul Hess, inspector of operations with the Woodstock police.