County recognizes IMPACT team for assistance with mental health crises

Members of Wellington County’s IMPACT team were recognized for their work assisting local police with responses to addiction and mental health crises.

The program was initiated in December of 2015 through an agreement between the Wellington County OPP and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHC) Waterloo Wellington Dufferin for a new Integrated Mobile Police and Crisis Team, funded through the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network.

“This program allows crisis workers from CMHC to work alongside our OPP when dealing with calls involving addiction and/or mental health crisis,” said councillor Lynda White at the June 29 Wellington County council meeting.

“We are one of the first OPP detachments in the province to have full, in-house, police-serving mobile crisis response capabilities,” added White, the county’s representative on the local police services board.

She introduced Julia Van Ryswyk and Anita Matthews, “the two amazing clinicians we are honouring today.”

Inspector Scott Lawson, Wellington OPP detachment commander, said the rising rate of responses involving addiction and mental health are “very much a concern for us, and it’s been a real stretch on our resources.”

Lawson said the local OPP are averaging two or more such calls per day, “So you can imagine the strain it puts on policing and health care.”

The local model for the program has been very effective, said Lawson.

“It’s a co-response police-driving model where Anita and Julia, when we have a call for service, they come with us and attend that call at the time, at the person’s home when they are struggling, in a setting where they are as comfortable as they can be,” said Lawson.

He presented Van Ryswyk and Matthews with certificates recognizing their work and dedication.

“They’ve become one of us … There is sort of a police culture that they needed to understand and overcome and see some of the daily challenges that we deal with,” said Lawson.

“So when we’re going to these calls they’re actually seeing some of the real tragedies in our communities.”

In the past 11 months, the IMPACT team has been involved in about 740 calls, 210 of which, Lawson said, resulted in a diversion from the emergency department of a local hospital.

“That’s a significant savings, but it’s also a huge positive for the community,” he noted.