Melissa Farrell, President of St. Joseph’s healthcare has issued a statement regarding mental health crisis calls, pointing out that Hamilton has been a leader in dealing with the issue and calling for more funding to make the system more equitable. Her statement follows:
The recent deaths that have occurred during a mental health crisis call are tragic and unacceptable. They expose a flawed system in responding to mental health crises, and show us once again that we must seek better ways of caring for people requiring mental health care. Deaths such as these occur in an environment where systemic racism is disproportionally affecting healthcare outcomes and access to mental health and addiction care for Black people, Indigenous peoples, and People of Colour.
As the regional provider of Mental Health and Addiction services, and a responder to mental health crises in partnership with police, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton supports calls for change. We must develop models that better respond to mental health crises and at the same time address any racial bias.
In 2015, St. Joe’s worked with Hamilton Police to create the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team (MCRRT), to pair up a mental health professional with a police officer to respond to 911 emergency calls involving a mental health issue. In doing this, for the first time in Canada, we brought mental health specialists to the front door of a mental health crisis as it was happening to match up the right trained professional to the situation, to de-escalate a confrontation, and to help determine the mental health needs of the individual in crisis. Through the past five years of MCRRT, apprehensions under the Mental Health Act were, on average, half of the number prior to the introduction of MCRRT. The model has been replicated across the country.
We now have to look at how we can do this better and are committed to this work. Recognizing that systemic racism and anti-Black racism exists in our health care and justice systems, we support calls for change to the status quo. Our crisis response model must be equitable, trauma-informed and responsive. As a starting point we need increased funding to create an equitable and anti-racist approach to mental health and addiction care. This should include a 24/7 crisis response model that is available everywhere with trained mental health professionals as the first responders.
We remain, as always, committed to serving this community in providing needed mental health and addiction care, and being a part of the change to improve mental health crisis response.