Elliott noncommittal on withdrawal management, announces police-hospital framework

(L to R) Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Michael Tibollo join Ontario Health Minister and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott while she answers questions outside Bluewater Health in Sarnia. August 9, 2019 Photo by Melanie Irwin

Ontario’s health minister and deputy premier came to Sarnia Friday but not to announce funding for a free-standing withdrawal management centre as many had hoped.

Instead, Christine Elliott used Bluewater Health as a backdrop to announce a new police-hospital transition framework for the province.

She was asked by Mayor Mike Bradley about the long-awaited, promised detox funding.

“It is something that is under active discussion within the ministry and we hope to have a response to you within a very short order, but it is an important consideration as part of developing a comprehensive mental health and addiction treatment plan for the province of Ontario,” Elliot responded.

She told reporters afterward they’re working to coordinate the capital and policy sides of the project.

“We are developing, hopefully, what will be an integrated and connected mental health and addiction system, so it has to fit within what we’re speaking about, as Mayor Bradley indicated it seems to be the next logical step, but we have to analyze it within the ministry and it all takes time. I’m sorry that it does, we’re trying to move faster, but it’s longer than most people would like,” she said.

The new police-hospital framework and toolkit will support the development of better transitions for people experiencing a mental health crisis, by establishing a clear and consistent process between police services and hospitals.

“Every community that has developed one has really noted an increase in services to people, less wait times for them and it helps keep emergency departments from being overcrowded and of course, helps police officers get back to their duties in a more timely manner,” said Elliott.

She said in emergency departments across the province, people in crisis are placed under police supervision for up to eight hours until they’re admitted under guidelines set out in the Mental Health Act.

Canadian Mental Health Association CEO Alan Stevenson said a Mental Health Engagement and Response Team [MHEART] is also being launched in Sarnia.

“MHEART aims to improve the experience of people with mental health and addictions needs that come into contact with police,” said Stevenson. “The team is comprised of mental health workers and police, working side by side to engage individuals in crisis, help to de-escalate situations and connect people with needed services.”

The province is spending an additional $174 million this year to expand mobile crisis teams across the province.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Michael Tibollo, Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey, Sarnia Police Chief Norm Hansen and Lambton OPP Detachment Commander Chris Avery also attended Friday’s announcement.