Mental health occurrences have increased in Muskoka according to the OPP.
At the Muskoka District Council meeting OPP Staff Sergent Wade Beebe made a presentation to council regarding the use of the Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT) in Muskoka. MCRT’s operate as a cooperation between police officers and mental health service providers responding together to mental health, addictions and neurodevelopmental calls for assistance. There are two MCRT in Muskoka, one in Huntsville and one in Bracebridge.
According to the presentation, there has been a noticeable increase in mental health occurrences in Muskoka. Between 2019 and 2023 the Huntsville OPP detachment saw mental health occurrences increase by 43%, while the Bracebridge detachment saw an 18% increase over the same period.
This increase in service calls has put a strain on the limited resources of the MCRT’s and as a result, only 19% of mental health calls received a visit by the MCRT between April and July this year. A report from the OPP states that increasing the resources of the MCRT could lead to a 20% increase in response to mental health occurrences.
The MCRTs work as a partnership between an OPP officer and a Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) worker. According to Beebe at the heart of the initiative is not only the direct response to the call but also the service provided afterwards.
“It’s not just about the initial call. It’s what we can provide that person after the call is over,” Beebe said.
A key element of the MCRT is to divert those suffering from mental health away from hospital services and towards more directed mental health support. According to Beebe this removes strain on hospital resources while also providing more appropriate care to individuals.
“What I mean by diverted is not required to go to the hospital. They were able to deal with the person’s crisis on scene, provide them with the resources they required. Therefore, not tying up hospital resources and police resources but providing them with what they required to get the help they needed,” Beebe said.
Beebe stated that the MCRT’s often respond to assist a small group of individuals on a regular basis. In response to this the MCRT involves a situation table which aims to understand the needs of individuals suffering from mental health issues and find ways to ensure that they do not require MCRT response in the future.
“The situation table provides them with those resources to try to eliminate how many times we need to go there for crisis because it provides them with that outlet,” Beebe said.
According to the report the MCRT’s have been successful but are limited by staffing shortages. Both Huntsville and Bracebridge now have a dedicated MCRT officer and a CMHA worker. However, these teams only work 40 hours per week.
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