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Police see the significance of mental health in regard to crime

'The confusing part and difficult part for the police is, we are educated and trained to respond to crime, and not so much mental health' Deputy Chief Scott Tod North Bay Police Service

Deputy Chief for the North Bay Police Service, Scott Tod, says policing in general across Ontario and Canada, has come to understand the significance of mental health in regard to crime.

Tod spoke to the media following the Police Services Board meeting where he presented the most recent crime statistics for North Bay and Callander.  

"People in mental health crisis, or people who experience mental health illness have a propensity to commit crimes at certain times depending on the lack of support they have in the community or the opportunities they have in regards to the ability to commit a criminal act. So I think we understand that well enough," said Tod.

"The confusing part and difficult part for the police is we are educated, trained and resourced to respond to crime, and not so much mental health."

Tod says a number of years ago, North Bay took a leadership role in the province, by creating the Mobile Crisis Team. Team members are trained in mental health response and in the area of nursing, providing health care to people who are in mental health crisis or suffering mental health illness.

"We're able to respond to the mental health aspect of crime now with the Mobile Crisis Team, but it's a challenge for all police services, and especially for us in North Bay. It's a challenge dealing with the significance of mental health in criminal calls for service that we have."    

Many of the crime related calls police respond to, have an added mental health component, says Tod. Police are then dealing with a combination of issues simultaneously.

"The question for many people is, is the police response the best response for people who are suffering from mental health illness or in a mental health crisis situation? Is responding in a criminal way, the best way forward?" said Tod. "And that's what we're working with, with all of our community partners in North Bay. All of our mental health partners, our health partners, our social services partners, we're working that right now."

Tod says the community hub model is one of the examples of how the partners work together to deal with acutely elevated individuals who need to have an alternate response that's not traditional to any one organization, but a collaboration of all of them.