Program to support people with mental health and addiction issues at the point of initial contact launched at NHH

from left: Northumberland OPP Detachment Commander Lisa Darling (L) along with invited guests and members of the collaborative police community mental health program were present for Wednesday’s announcement.

Article & image by Valerie Macdonald

A mental health nurse will accompany police when responding to individuals struggling with mental illness and addictions, Cobourg Police Officer Vanessa Gerasimow explained during the launch of the

Cobourg Police Officer Vanessa Gerasimow is an important part of the new, collaborative mobile mental health response team, says Cobourg Police Chief Kai Liu.

M-HEART (Mental Health Engagement and Response Team) Initiative March 8. Northumberland Ontario Provincial Police are also taking part in this project. 

The announcement took place in the lobby of the Northumberland Hills Hospital (NHH) at which NNH officials, politicians, police and community support workers were present.

The initiative will see a mental health nurse or an M-Heart social worker ride along with officers when the police service engages with individuals with mental health and/or addiction issues.

The objective of “M-Heart” (the mental health engagement and response team) is to service and support people “where they are at,” said Jennifer Cox, NHH manager of mental health services.

The collaboration is funded by the provincial government through the Central East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), local riding MPP Lou Rinaldi said.

With Cobourg Police and Northumberland OPP already on board, “discussions are currently underway” to expand the initiative with the Port Hope Police Service according to the media release.

At present,  the area the initiative covers includes Cobourg, Port Hope, Hamilton, Cramahe and Alnwick/Haldimand townships and Trent Hills.

A reduction in the number of people coming into the hospital’s emergency department is one of the anticipated outcomes of the new collaboration when the program begins in April.