Bob Chiarelli offers list of medical professionals to improve police responses to mental health calls

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Mayoral candidate Bob Chiarelli is proposing changes to how the Ottawa Police Service handles mental health calls.

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Chiarelli, who served as mayor of Ottawa from 2001 to 2006 and was Liberal MLA for Queen’s Park, told the newspaper’s editorial board on Monday that he wanted the Royal Ottawa Hospital to partner with the police.

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“I think we haven’t been well served by the system when there are 911 wellness calls,” Chiarelli said. “The current situation needs to be significantly improved for the safety and security of the police and those involved in the dangerous situations for which the police are called.”

Chiarelli said his proposal would involve creating a group of mental health professionals who would respond to emergency calls alongside the police.

“I proposed that we create a partnership between the Ottawa Police Service and the Royal Ottawa Hospital where the ROH would compile a list of 10-15 mental health professionals who could be called upon to join the police intervention,” he said. “The mental health professional(s) on the list (would) be available at the time of the call. We put on a vest to clearly identify them and go to the scene of the incident. Protocols would have been drawn up on how whose team manages often dangerous situations.

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The OPS currently has a mental health unit that has been in existence for over 20 years. Its agents work with mental health nurses from The Ottawa Hospital on calls where people are known to have had mental health emergencies. They connect members of the public with community resources and support systems, during and after a crisis, according to the OPS.

At the end of 2020, the force announced it would invest $1.5 million in a new community-led mental health response strategy, partly in response to criticism it had received over the death. in 2016 from Abdirahman Abdi, a 37-year-old Somali Canadian with a story. mental health issues. Abdi died after a violent confrontation with the police.

Asked about the feasibility of having mental health professionals available during a shortage of health care workers, Chiarelli pointed to Toronto, which has already started sending nurses and mental health professionals to certain calls for people in crisis and said he worked with the RCMP in Northern Ontario.

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“IIt’s not about creating new ground here. It’s done,” he said.

Chiarelli said he consulted with former police chiefs: “It was done with some consultation and not just off my hat,” he said.

The Royal Ottawa Hospital did not respond to a request for comment.

The OPS responds to thousands of mental health calls each year, the according to a document given to the police commission last year. The service had developed a mental health intervention strategy in collaboration with mental health and addictions professionals and community organizations to improve outcomes for people with mental health issues.

Mayoral candidate Mark Sutcliffe has pledged to sit on the Ottawa Police Services Board and ensure that every region of Ottawa is represented on the board. But Chiarelli told this newspaper that he would not sit on the board. “My feeling is that there should be some independence between the senior politician (and the police commission),” he said.

Candidate Catherine McKenney (who uses the pronouns they/them) called for more “effective policing,” saying police budgets should be based on evidence and what actually works to reduce crime.

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