Changes coming to how police deal with mental health cases

Vancouver, BC, Canada / (CKNW AM) AM980

They’re not doctors, but they’re often the first responders to mental health cases.

Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill, the newly elected president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police says police officers are often called to deal with mental health cases.

“We have parent who will call us ‘my son or my daughter will not take their meds, we need some help from the police.”

A new report by the Mental Health Commission of Canada says there are more interactions reported between police and people with mental illness than there were five to seven years ago.

Weighill says changes are coming.

“Criminal Justice and mental health leaders, researchers and people will lived experience in mental illness discussed what works and what can be improved and some promising practise.”

Weighill says there needs to be a better partnership between the health and justice systems.

“So, we try to do an intervention maybe we make things safe. So it’s really the partnerships and the collaborative things that we have to work on here that will really dove-tail with the training that we’ll give to our officers.”

Weighill says the changes will also come with a different approach.

“We are forming things like what is called the ‘police in crisis team’ where our mental health workers teamed up with a police officer. So when our front line officers get to a house maybe dealing with a person with schitzophrenia that’s off their meds, our front-line officers cannot have all the training, they can call the team.”

The report offers 16 recommendations for improvement including anti-stigma education and less physical police interactions with the mentally ill.

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