Windsor Police Service Board 'sounding the alarm' over mental health pressures


The Windsor Police Services Board is calling on the Ontario government to provide more funding to address and respond to mental health issues in the community and take pressure off the police service.

During Thursday's meeting, the board passed a motion introduced by Ward 6 councillor Jo-Anne Gignac that asks the province when the city can expect to receive sustainable funding to provide sustained wrap around services to address mental health and addiction issues in the community.

The board pointed out that frontline police officers often being called first to respond to individuals experiencing mental health and addiction-related situations in the community, that are not necessarily criminal in nature, because few other 24-hour services are available to respond.

Gignac says police are here to uphold the law, they should not be responsible for dealing with mental health issues.

"They aren't psychologists, they aren't a service that can bring somebody that's having addiction issues to the downtown precinct and help them, give them the tools that will help them toward a different style of life. That's not what policing is about," she says.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General had provided the board with figures from the 2022 Risk-driven Tracking Database, a tool that helps communities across the province collect information on local priorities such as agency and sector engagement, risks, vulnerable groups, service availability and mobilization.

The figures are designed to help assess patterns and trends related to community safety and well-being.

In almost every single area being tracked by the database, the report found mental health was listed as the top risk category.

Gignac says the evidence is pretty clear, we are struggling when it comes to the reality of mental health issues and drug addictions.

She says "the funding is not sustainable on a municipal tax base, that is not what municipal taxes were ever designed for and we're sounding the alarm."

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, Chair of the Windsor Police Services Board, feels police are being treated as the "catch all" when it comes to people looking for help regarding mental health or addiction issues in the community.

"At the end of the day, it's not a criminal issue, so they're not taking that person to jail," he says. "There needs to be, and we've been advocating for quite sometime about a place, drop off place where police and EMS can take someone experiencing a mental health crisis and get support almost immediately and release the officers and first responders to get back on the scene and respond to more calls."

Dilkens says some of the cases that police, fire or EMS deal with are complex cases.

"Some of these cases are quite severe and so the decentralization of mental health services to every community, hoping that every community has enough psychiatrists and resources, has been an abject failure, that's been proven," he says. "So we need the right levels of government to step in and fund the provision of the services that are required and relieve municipalities of that burden."