Police Team Up with Community Mental Health Services To Answer Mental Health Calls

When emergency responders are called to a potential serious mental health situation, they have a new back up team trained specifically to deal with the crisis.

Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS), Whitby Mental Health Centre (WMHC), and Durham Mental Health Services (DMHS) have successfully launched a collaborative mental health response team in Durham Region that has been in operation since February, 2008.

The Mental Health Support Unit (MHSU) consists of a plain-clothes police officer and a mental health nurse and support crisis staff.  They respond to police officers’ requests for assistance with situations that require skilled mental health interventions.  They work to both resolve the immediate situation, and then make sure the person who is experiencing a mental health challenge is given the help he or she needs.  Back-up for the MHSU is provided by Durham Mental Health Crisis Services.

 “Police officers are often called when somebody’s mental illness is causing problems for them, or their families or for the public,” says Constable Corey Walsh, the DRPS police officer dedicated to the MHSU.  “Often people are afraid. Our officers are doing a great job of calling us in to help. Our first priority is to make sure that everybody is safe and to calm things down.”  

Ruth Lawrence, the WMHC mental health nurse on the support unit is happy to be part of such an important initiative, providing vital services to the community.  “We ensure people receive the follow-up they need, either at the hospital or by giving them intensive support in the community.  These are stressful situations and there are often several people who need some support after they have had to call police.  Our mental health back-up services are in place to provide support for those suffering from a mental illness and their families.

The MHSU is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care through Durham Mental Health Services. In addition to its crisis services, Durham Mental Health Services provides a range of mental health support services for people living in the community.  This new partnership links the continuum of mental health care in the community with the crisis response system.  The unit is meeting the mental health needs of people who come in contact with the police, and at the same time is significantly reducing the demand on hospital emergency departments. In the past, all police calls dealing with mental health crises would result in trips to local emergency rooms.

“Our community based crisis services are backing up the calls that Ruth and Corey receive”, says Foster Cromwell,  a Crisis Intervention  Worker with Durham Mental Health Services.   “We have a 24 hour community based crisis service that includes a separate mobile team and safe beds so we can follow-up after the first situation is resolved.  Hopefully, people will think to call us the next time, to provide assistance before the police need to be involved.”

The Mental Health Support Unit is called to assist by Durham Regional Police Services.  Or anyone may call the Durham Mental Health Services  Telephone Crisis Line, at any time,  at 905-666-0483 or 1-800-742-1890.


For more information contact:

Doreen Hume McKenna
Coordinator, Community Engagement
Durham Mental Health Services
905-666- 0831 x227