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Mental health team making positive impact, city police say

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Journal Staff

Sarnia Police’s mental health response team has cut almost in half the wait time for people requiring psychiatric treatment at the hospital.

According to a new Sarnia Police Services Board report, the average hospital wait time for apprehensions has fallen from three hours to one hour and 47 minutes since the two-person team of a constable and mental health nurse began patrols.

Sarnia Police, Canadian Mental Health Association and Bluewater Health launched the Mental Health Engagement and Response Team, or MHEART, in July 2019.

The duo of Const. Tim VanCowenberg and registered nurse Nicole Polak patrol Sarnia on four weekly eight-hour shifts.

Over the past year, more than a third (234 of 675) of all mental health calls were diverted to the team, the report said.

For police, one goal of the program was to ensure community coverage by reducing the time officers spend at the hospital.

“The Sarnia Police Service has seen a positive impact from the MHEART program and its collaborative approach to community safety and wellbeing.” said Deputy Chief Owen Lockhart.


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