WINDSOR, ONT. -- Windsor police and Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare have partnered to tackle a rising number of mental health and addiction-related calls.

The Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team initiative launched Monday to assist City of Windsor residents with mental health-related issues or crises.

“This is a transformative change for our community,” says Windsor Police Chief Pam Mizuno.

Mizuno says mental health-related calls have steadily increased over the years. Late last year it was revealed that 911 calls related to mental health issues have soared 45 per cent during the pandemic while new reports from the Canadian Mental Health Association are showing alarming trends in mental health across Ontario.

“Responding together means we can connect individuals with the care they need from the subject matter experts who provide such care. We are thankful for this opportunity and thankful to have this continued partnership," says Mizuno.

The Mobile Crisis Rapid Respond Team, or MCRRT, pairs a trained HDGH mental health social worker with a frontline police officer to provide a health response to a health problem in real-time. The MCRRT will be at the forefront of responding to mental health related calls from persons in crisis diverting from hospitals, primarily emergency departments as well as the justice system.

“The Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team will bring a compassionate response through an important partnership within two systems - healthcare and the justice system," says Dr. Sonja Grbevski, HDGH vice president of Mental Health and Addictions. “When responding to a call, the focus will be on de-escalation, stabilization, providing counselling and then hopefully an ongoing connection to further community supports should the individual be willing.”

The MCRRT’s two units will operate Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. The teams will consist of the same two officers and mental health social workers all specially trained in crisis intervention.

The two organizations are currently partnered through the Community Outreach and Support Team (COAST) that consists of a plain-clothed officer and mental health social worker that conducts mental health and risk assessments but does not serve as a live response team.

In partnership with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), HDGH operates a MCRRT team covering Essex County, as well as a Youth Crisis Response Team that responds to emergency mental health calls of youth up to the age of 16.