OPP Launches Comprehensive Integrated Mental Health Strategy

Document Addresses Mental Health of Both OPP Personnel and Community Members

ORILLIA, ON, Dec. 2, 2015 /CNW/ - Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Commissioner J.V.N. (Vince) Hawkes today launched the OPP Mental Health Strategy: Our People, Our Communities, a comprehensive and integrated approach to improving the response to the mental health needs of OPP members and the individuals they serve.

"How do we encourage our people to be, and remain, resilient? How can we improve outcomes when police interact with people with mental health issues? These are just some of the important questions addressed in the OPP's Mental Health Strategy," said Hawkes at a media conference.  "By placing a high value on supporting the health and wellness of our own members, the OPP will be in the best possible position to deliver services to people in our communities with mental health issues."

The OPP Strategy has two related but distinct components -- Supporting Our People: Healthy Workforce and Supporting Our Communities: Police Interactions with People with Mental Health Issues.

Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi expressed his support: "Our government believes that improving interactions between police and vulnerable individuals is vitally important and a key part of our Strategy for a Safer Ontario. The OPP's new Mental Health Strategy reflects that focus and I commend them for their work to increase opportunities for early intervention and improve outcomes for both OPP officers and the public they serve."

The 15 priorities for action include the: expansion of mental health education and training for officers; increased capacity in the OPP Critical Incident Stress Response Team/Peer Support Program; improved data collection and on-going program evaluation; the  development of transfer of care protocols (from police to health care provider); the facilitation of the development of police/mental health collaborative response models; and increased early referrals from police to mental health services.

At the news conference, Hawkes said the Strategy was the result of extensive work by the OPP which included research on best practices and broad stakeholder consultation.

‎A complete text of the Strategy, along with related materials, can be found on the OPP website at http://www.opp.ca/ecms/index.php?id=584

OPP Comprehensive and Integrated Mental Health Strategy

  • The OPP Mental Health Strategy; Our People, Our Communities is the result of in-depth research and extensive consultation with a wide variety of stakeholders.

  • While the OPP has been making significant improvements to its approach to mental health over the last several years, the Strategy means the OPP now has an integrated, comprehensive approach to these important issues.

  • The strategy has two distinct and complementary components – Supporting Our People: Healthy Workforce and Supporting Our Communities: Police Interactions with People with Mental Health Issues.
  • Addressing these two components in a single, comprehensive strategy is a recognition that support for the well-being of OPP members, retirees and their families and the well-being of the communities the OPP serves becomes stronger by being linked and integrated.

  • Police interactions with persons with mental health issues continue to receive extensive media coverage and be an ongoing subject for discussion by the police, the public and the media. These interactions have been the subject of recent inquests and inquiries into the police-involved deaths of individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.

  • Findings from these discussions, inquests and inquiries primarily focus on the need to: 

    • Collect accurate data on police interactions with people with mental health issues
    • Increase officer training
    • Create policy and protocols relating to crisis intervention to address the issues of transfer of care and transportation of people with mental health issues
    • Develop collaborative police/community mental health response models

  • The Ontario Ombudsman is currently studying how police train and practice de-escalation techniques in conflict situations. A report and recommendations are expected sometime in the near future.

  • In 2012, the Ontario Ombudsman released In the Line of Duty: Investigation into how the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services have addressed operational stress injuries affecting police officers which contained 28 recommendations for the OPP.

  • The OPP completed a thorough review of the report, In the Line of Duty, and its recommendations. The OPP is continuing to support the health and well-being of OPP members; the Ombudsman no longer asks the OPP to report on progress.

  • Priorities for Action for the Supporting Our People: Healthy Workforce component of the strategy are: expand mental health education and training; reduce stigma and build awareness; expand programs and resources for all members; increase capacity and standardization in the OPP Critical Incident Stress Response/Peer Support Program (CISR/PS); develop strong internal and external communications; increase partnerships with internal and external agencies; Improve overall well-being of members/retirees/families; and implement continual program evaluation. 

  • Priorities for Action for the Supporting Our Communities: Police Interactions with People with Mental Health Issues component are: provide leadership at all levels; improve data collection; conduct ongoing program evaluation; support development of transfer of care protocols; increase early referrals to mental health services; enhance training for frontline responders; and facilitate development of police/mental health collaborative response models.

  • The OPP does not view its Mental Health Strategy as a starting point or eventual finishing point. The OPP has already made much progress on these issues, but recognizes there will always be work to be done. The OPP Mental Health Strategy: Our People, Our Communities is an integrated and comprehensive statement and guide for the OPP to improve its response to all aspects of mental health. The strategy will be subject to renewal and revision as new issues and approaches evolve.

  • The OPP wants to share its Mental Health Strategy broadly so it can have informed and productive discussion with other police services, other emergency service providers, health care providers, mental health consumers or people with lived experience, OPP personnel and the communities the OPP serves.

SOURCE Ontario Provincial Police

For further information: Media Contact: Sgt. Peter Leon, Provincial Media Relations Coordinator, Phone: (705) 329-6878, E-mail: peter.leon@opp.ca


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