Waterloo regional police discuss response to mental health calls at board meeting

Waterloo regional police discussed exploring responses to mental health calls at a Police Services Board meeting on Wednesday morning.

The current model was brought into focus on the heels of a police-involved shooting in Kitchener last month. Right now, police and mental health workers are paired up to respond to most mental health calls, but some calls slip through the cracks because those teams aren't always available.

The Integrated Mobile Police and Crisis Team, known as IMPACT, provides overage from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m., seven days a week.

Between April 1 and June 30 of this year, the team was dispatched 364 times and was unavailable to attend calls 13 per cent of the time.

Chief Bryan Larkin said that increasing that availability to 24 hours a day "isn't necessarily realistic and isn't necessarily needed." He referenced data showing when those calls occurred, and said police are looking at a system to help direct more calls to mental health professionals.

"One of the pieces we're very interested in and currently exploring is a triaging model that is tied to our communication, the PSAP, that would look at diverting mental health calls from any police response and would transition and push to the health-care system directly," Larkin said.

Larkin added police have a meeting scheduled with the Canadian Mental Health Association to discuss how that partnership can be enhanced going forward.