A new mental health and well-being initiative is getting started for youth in crisis locally. 

Nipissing University, the North Bay Police Service, Hands The Family Help Network and the North Bay Regional Health Centre are all involved. 

Nipissing professor Dr. Ron Hoffman, Chair, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, is one of the lead researchers on the project. 

He says the project is about enhancing access to child and youth mental health services through an improved referral pathway from police officers.  They will use a mental health screener on their cellphones. 

“If they notice some unusual behaviour in a child or youth or accompanying adult to capture that information on the form and with their consent forward it to a local mental health service provider,” Hoffman says.  “What we’re trying to do is build bridges and help get that child or youth or adult to services they need faster.”

Nipissing is developing the mental health screening tool, with the program to begin in December. 

Hoffman says in the past the process was police would take a person to the emergency room of the hospital, if necessary.  

Now they will be able to forward information ahead of time so the hospital is ready or they can reach out to a mental health service provider if it’s not serious enough for the hospital. 

Hoffman says another aim is to see the program used elsewhere. 

“We wanted to be able to create a model that can be emulated across the north or any other jurisdiction.  We’re enlisting the aid of all community agencies to deal with this problem,” he says. 

“Statistics show that about 15% of police calls involve persons experiencing at least one mental health issue,” states Mental Health Research Canada (MHRC) on their website. “This puts police officers in a unique position to flag and refer children and youth for follow-up with mental health services.” 

The research project received $100,000 in funding from MHRC.