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Police Chief says rise in mental health calls not a direct risk to the public

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Mental health calls are up in North Bay.  Police Chief Shawn Devine says over the past two years, the monthly calls involving mental health amounted to less than 300.   He says now that monthly average has climbed to more than 320 calls.  Although Devine says the higher number of calls should be a concern, the figure shouldn’t be perceived in the sense that mental health people are a direct danger to the public.   “We’re talking about everything related from crisis because of depression to mental health issues where people are charged criminally,” said the Chief.   “It’s a wide spectrum and people need to know that frontline policing is being affected by the mental health calls we’ve been receiving.”

Devine isn’t sure if the increase is due to how the department classifies what passes as a mental health issue and how the police respond to calls that may be thought to be mental health related.   The Chief says the issue will require more study to determine if the number is really up or not.

Currently, police respond to mental health calls with direct help from a mental health nurse at the local hospital.  It’s a program the department started three years ago and is called Mobile Crisis Intervention.   It takes in people who are at an elevated risk or in crisis where mental health issues are involved.  The local program is based on one offered by the police in Chatham Kent.

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