Mental Health Week and the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team

Kris Elliott
Mental Health Week and the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team
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We all need to get a green light on our mental health. Halton Regional Police Service stations will be awash in green light to recognize the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week (May 2-8).

Halton Regional Police Service has developed a mental health care initiative, in partnership with St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, called the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team. These teams are comprised of a registered healthcare professional and a uniformed police officer who are trained to defuse or de-escalate crisis situations, advocate for the person and families in crisis and ensure necessary mental health assessments are completed.

To reflect on the important role of the MCRRT during Mental Health Week, we would like to share a day in the life with Constable Kristopher Elliott and Mental Health Worker Priscilla Ankamah (RN).

A Day in the Life

The day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team (MCRRT) are often quite different, and no day is ever the same. MCRRT has taken to the streets of Halton with a mission “to serve with respect.” Both Halton Regional Police Service and St. Joseph’s Hospital recognized the need to enhance the services to Halton residents who experience crisis. Thus, MCRRT was born. Halton Regional Police have dedicated four full time specialty trained police officers in crisis intervention and St Joseph’s Hospital has provided four full time mental health workers.

Today, Constable Kristopher Elliott is working with Mental Health Worker Priscilla Ankamah (RN). Both are gearing up for another day. Constable Elliott has worked within Halton Police Mental Health Unit for the last two-and-a-half years. Working with the Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) and now transitioning to MCRRT, Constable Elliott has had training in mental health, addictions and crisis intervention. Working with those in crisis is something he takes to heart.

“Police work includes many diverse areas. Some officers take the path of investigations, and others support roles. Mental health is a new path. Working with some of the most vulnerable people at a time where they feel there is no one to turn to proves challenging; however, when that same person calls me a few months later and is in a good place that makes the long, difficult days all worth it,” says Constable Kristopher Elliott.

Before Priscilla Ankamah became part of MCRRT, she worked for many years as a Registered Nurse at the Emergency Psychiatric Services at St. Joseph Hospital in Hamilton. During this time, she had patients come up to her to inform her that she had shown them kindness and understanding. These qualities are necessary when working with clients experiencing mental illness. Having the ability to establish a therapeutic relationship with the mental health client is the key to having a successful outcome.

“I enjoy working in the MCRRT program along with our uniform officers as I get the opportunity each day to show sympathy and empathy towards our society’s most vulnerable. I feel privileged that I get to help make humanity a bit better,” says Priscilla Ankamah.

In reality there isn’t a typical day in the MCRRT as we can quickly go from a slow day with low call volumes to what we call ‘back to back to back.’ Each call also comes with new challenges. Our clients differ in their needs and their personalities. Therefore, it is important that the team is prepared and able to adapt to these changing situations.

A typical call involves MCRRT working together with other police units. The mental health worker (registered nurse, social worker or occupational therapist) completes the mental health assessment of the client. This assessment is completed to determine level of need and also to help determine the best possible outcomes for the client. Clients are then connected to resources based on the assessment. MCRRT takes the proactive approach to connect clients to different community agencies and partners dedicated to help them out of crisis.

The team usually starts the day by reviewing the previous day’s calls as well following up on pending items from the day before. This can be a phone call to a community resource or ensuring that a client went to an appointment. MCRRT has a fair amount of paperwork to complete and ensures reports were forwarded and completed. Both the mental health worker and police officer will put on the appropriate uniform for the job before heading out into the community. MCRRT drives a full operational police car, which allows the team to travel quickly and safely to calls for service when needed. MCRRT is dispatched to active 9-1-1 calls for those in crisis and other emergency calls when needed. These calls have no age limit and we have seen people as young as the age of 7 to a person in their late 90’s. MCRRT travels throughout the entire Region of Halton. A day may consist of seeing the outer parts of Georgetown, to a sidewalk in Burlington or even the Oakville Place mall.

This mental health care initiative is just six months old; however, teams have helped over 500 persons in crisis. MCRRT is meeting its objective of reducing the number of individuals being taken to hospital as well as reducing the number of hours uniform patrol officers are spending at hospital. MCRRT will continue to make a positive impact for us, the individuals in crisis and ultimately the community as a whole.

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