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Regional police working on more alternative services for mental health related calls

A team of mental health and addictions professionals has been able to respond with police each time it was requested this year
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Waterloo Regional Police are working on more alternative services to respond to people in crisis and mental health related calls.

So far this year, a team of addictions and mental health clinicians has been able to respond each time it was requested, along with police officers.

The Integrated Mobile and Police Crisis Team is a partnership between the service and the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Last year, there were 55 times IMPACT was not available from April to June.

This year, there have been no instances where the team has not been available.

IMPACT has also been dispatched 25 per cent more from April to June compared with earlier this year.

"What I take is that in that response, dispatch is 25 per cent higher than it was in Q1 and still 100 per cent response to that, and higher this time last year as well, This is a really good news story," said Karen Schnarr, the police board's vice-chair at the police services board meeting on Wednesday.

IMPACT has most frequently responded to mental illness and attempted suicide calls.

From April to June, it responded to 15 per cent of all calls for attempted suicide with police, and 16 per cent of all mentally ill calls. 

"Some of those calls, what IMPACT's not going to, simply just being that they're based on violence or unsafe conditions. Sometimes officers get to know the hours that IMPACT workers are available, so they're simply not requesting them at 2 in the morning," said Acting Staff Superintendent Eugene Fenton.

IMPACT shifts cover 8 a.m. to midnight.

The service is also working on a Crisis Call Diversion Program.

Acting Chief of Police John Goodman said the hope is to have it up and running by November.

"That's getting that crisis nurse or practitioner into communications, so when calls are coming in, we can start to try to divert there first. So that maybe [police] don't have to go. Maybe IMPACT doesn't have to go. Maybe we can move that call to another doctor or another agency to deal with it," Goodman said. 

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