A program pairing Guelph Police officers with mental health professionals to respond to crisis calls is expanding the hours it operates thanks to additional funding recently announced by the provincial government.
The Integrated Mobile Police And Crisis Team (IMPACT) was created in 2015 as a partnership between Guelph Police and Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington (CMHA WW) to provide supportive mental health crisis care to those in need.
Last month the program received an increase in funding to the tune of $500,000 for the program to expand in Waterloo Region, Guelph and through the Ontario Provincial Police, said Aleah Wagner, manager for IMPACT and mental health and justice for CMHA WW.
"For Guelph that means we have added two and a half positions,” said Wagner by phone on Wednesday.
The added crisis response coordinator positions will allow the program to increase its hours of operation from its current 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends.
Starting in January, the IMPACT will operate 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. seven days a week.
For the first time, IMPACT crisis response coordinators will also be available on statutory holidays.
"We were never able to do that in the past," said Wagner.
As a result in the funding increase, three workers will be added to Waterloo Regional Police Service and the OPP receive a part-time position equivalent to .5 positions.
Ideally the program will some day be offered in Guelph 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said Wagner, but she noted that will require additional funding.
“We know that on the other end of the spending we need treatment and other places to refer people on to so that they can get and remain well, but it's a good step in the right direction,” she said.
The crisis response coordinators are stationed in the Guelph Police Headquarters and can accompany officers on calls involving mental health or addictions.
IMPACT attended 173 live calls for service between April 1 and Aug. 31, 2020. As a result, Guelph Police say 130 of them were diverted from hospitals due to the intervention.
Speaking about IMPACT during a budget presentation made on Tuesday, police chief Gord Cobey told city council that Guelph Police responds to thousands of calls in relation to the wellness of the community and community members.
“We look forward to engaging and will continue to work to make sure that the right people are providing the right care at the right time when it comes to calls we respond to,” said Cobey. "Our goal is that our IMPACT team is available 24 hours a day seven days a week to help people who need it.”
The funding was part of a recently announced top-up to the Ontario government’s $176 million Roadmap to Wellness plan to build a fully connected mental health and addictions system across the province.