Community Partners Develop New Training Initiative for Police Officers

Durham Regional Police will soon participate in the development of a First Responder Interactive Simulation Training program to help them respond effectively to situations involving mental health clients.

The program represents a unique partnership between Whitby Mental Health Centre (WMHC), Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS), Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT).  The program will consist of interactive video-based learning objects that focus on some of the most common incidents police encounter involving persons presumed to have a mental illness. This initiative builds on a previously successful collaboration between WMHC, DRPS and UOIT that resulted in the development and implementation of an educational session for Special Constables,  focusing on effective strategies for interacting with mental health clients.

“This program facilitates a greater understanding of some of the challenges individuals with a mental illness experience,” says Jim Cyr, Administrative Director, Forensic Program at WMHC.  “It represents true collaboration within the community and ensures frontline officers can respond to specific situations using the most appropriate therapeutic communication strategies.”

The Inukshuk Wireless Learning Plan provided $69,522 for this groundbreaking simulation project.  “This grant will not only help educate police officers and reduce stigma associated with mental illness, but it will also strengthen and enhance our relationships with community partners by working together to address a common issue,” says Wendy Stanyon, Assistant Professor at UOIT. 

The First Responder Interactive Simulation Training project will begin in January at UOIT and Durham College. Constable Corey Walsh, Coordinator of the DRPS Mental Health Support Unit, says police officers are looking forward to participating in the development of the simulations.  “This initiative will continue to strengthen the quality of police service we provide to the community and ensure we understand the most effective ways of responding to individuals with a mental illness.”

These learning resources can be used within a classroom setting and will also be suitable for self-directed study.  The knowledge and skills acquired through these interactive learning objects can be utilized by other professionals including nurses, paramedics, human service counselors, as well as faculty and students in related programs in post secondary educational institutions.    

For more information, please contact:

Jennifer Bastarache, Communications Officer, Whitby Mental Health Centre, 905-430-4055 ext. 6545

Wendy Stanyon, Assistant Professor, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, 905-721-8668 ext. 2250

Corey Walsh, Coordinator - Mental Health Support Unit, Durham Regional Police Service, 905-579-1520 ext. 5610