June 24, 2024

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WPS, healthcare partners expand programs to address mental health and substance abuse issues

3 min read

Two programs designed to address mental health and substance use challenges in Windsor are being expanded as part of the City of Windsor’s Strengthen the Core plan.

The Windsor Police Service has announced that the Nurse Police Team, which pairs police officers with nurses from Windsor Regional Hospital, is being expanded to seven days up from the current three days per week, operating from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m.

The pilot project was launched in May 2023, and in its first year, the NPT handled 1,645 calls for service, distributed 240 dosages of the life-saving medication Naloxone, referred 905 people to community resources, and diverted 563 potential visits from hospital emergency rooms.

Windsor Police Constable Jordyn Thompson has been with the Nurse Police Team since the beginning and says one missing person case really highlights and inspires her in the work they are doing.

“Upon finding him, we learned that he was struggling with addiction and was having significant difficulty accessing the necessary services for his condition,” she says. “Our team worked diligently to connect him with the resource he needed, referred him to Brentwood, a local facility known for its excellent addition treatment programs, and remarkably, he was able to begin treatment right away.”

The police service and Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare have also announced a new Crisis Response Team (CRT), which will continue pairing frontline police officers with social workers who have expertise in mental health and de-escalation techniques.

The CRT replaces the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team (MCRRT) and the Community Outreach and Support Team (COAST).

The CRT has also increased operations from five days to seven days per week, from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m., providing overlap coverage during peak hours and reducing the number of calls to which patrol units must respond.

Windsor Police Chief Jason Bellaire says calls related to these specific issues remain a significant challenge for the police service, often the only perceived response option, yet police are not subject matter experts in this area.

“Partnering with nurses and social workers allows us to provide an informed, effective response to people in crisis, keep them out of hospital emergency departments, and, importantly, reduce the potential and risk of negative and even violent interactions between police officers or even individuals living in the margins of our society who need assistance from appropriate agencies rather than a confrontation with police officers,” he says.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens says this alone will not solve the entire problem, but this is a major step forward in expanding the hours and having these partners work together.

“It shows the public that when you have all the partners here and are talking about the expansion of hours, we have a plan,” he says. “No one has their head in the sand on this issue; no one has for years, to be honest. It’s just been very complex trying to work through and navigate some of the challenges in front of us.”

On May 13, city council voted in favour of spending $3.2 million in support of the Strengthen the Core plan, which is aimed at revitalizing and improving safety in downtown Windsor.

An element of the plan includes $1.3 million in funding to add 12 more police officers to address drug use and disorderly conduct downtown while working with health and social services, along with discouraging loitering and panhandling on medians and in front of empty storefronts and residential buildings in the downtown core.

The Nurse Police Team and the new Crisis Response Team are key elements of the effort to address health and social service issues in the core and across the city.


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