The Scarborough Hospital launches Mental Health Community Crisis Response Team

In partnership with the Toronto Police Services (TPS), The Scarborough Hospital’s (TSH) Mental Health Services Program implements a Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT). MCIT is a trained police-mental health team that provides intensive, rapid response and is highly focused on assessment, diagnosis and therapeutic intervention.

The service of this dedicated team of mental health professionals, including three nurses and specially trained police constables, provides 10-hour a day, seven days a week crisis assessment, intervention, and community crisis response. The service also offers support and education for family members and other caregivers, case management and follow-up, and linkage to mental health services and community resources.

In 2006, The Scarborough Hospital’s General Campus psychiatrically assessed 1,564 patients in the emergency department, 43 per cent were accompanied by a police officer. At the Grace Campus, 921 patients were assessed with 32 per cent accompanied by TPS.

“Serving a population of approximately 700,000 people, we recognized the need for a secondary response team to tend to the 911 calls involving people experiencing a crisis as a result of an acute emotional incident or severe psychiatric illness,” says Sara Kirkup, Manager of the Regional Crisis Programs at TSH. “Such calls often require timely professional intervention to assess the situation, the person’s individual needs, and to ensure safety.”

When patients endure a mental health crisis, they often feel emotionally distressed, self-injurious, unstable, and unsafe and possibly suffer from a psychiatric disorder. As second responders, the MCIT has the ability to effectively prevent or reduce hospital ER visits by providing more immediate and accurate mental health assessments, effective intervention, and follow-up for these individuals.

“The Scarborough Hospital is the only hospital in the Greater Toronto Area to implement an MCIT program that works collaboratively with all the precincts in its community,” says Sara. “Prior to this model the TPS primary response units would have to endure long waits in the ER to take custody of these individuals. With the new MCIT, officers can leave the ER more quickly and respond to other calls and community needs.”

MCITs have proven successful in situations when law enforcement is faced with special challenges and cases involving individuals suffering from mental illness. Furthermore, this model has effectively managed crisis situations by providing an alternative to arrest and unnecessary ER visits. It has also shown to reduce wait times in hospital emergency departments.

Since 1988, research has shown the MCIT model to be beneficial by reducing emergency room recidivism, less need for the use of lethal force, reduction in injuries to officers and mental health consumers, and improvements in community relations.

The Scarborough Hospital’s Mental Health Services provide a range of care, which enables people with severe mental health problems to remain in the community, using hospitalization only when necessary. The program’s community-based focus stresses the importance of providing services to the community in the most appropriate environment. The hospital offers inpatient and crisis services at both the General and Grace Campus. Case management programs, outpatient programs, day clinic programs and a 24-hour high support group home are community-based to ease accessibility and reduce the stigma that is often associated with mental health.

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