WINGHAM, ONT. -- So far, so good in Grey-Bruce say organizers, now that a new protocol has been put in place to ease the transition of mental health patients from police hands to hospitals beds.

“We have got initial feedback from hospital and police staff that this has been a wonderful thing. It’s created smoother transitions and strengthened working relationships between hospitals and police,” says Dana Howes, Hanover and District Hospital’s CEO.

Since July, Grey-Bruce’s seven police agencies, nine hospitals, along with paramedics and the local mental health association, have been using a new protocol to smooth the transition of the rising number of people apprehended under the Mental Health Act, from police cruisers to care.

Insp. Krista Miller is Detachment Commander with the South Bruce OPP.

“It provides a communication tool for us to do a risk assessment together with the hospital staff, to assist with the transfer of care of the patient. To provide the best possible outcome for the patient. To provide the best possible information to hospital staff so they can share for that patient. Also, to assist the police to get back out on the street as quickly as possible, once they’re able to safely leave the patient in the hospitals care,” she says.

Mental Health Act calls are increasing everywhere in Ontario, Grey-Bruce included. Four years ago, Grey-Bruce OPP officers responded to approximately 500 mental health calls. Today, that number is 700 per year. In Hanover alone, police have responded to 100 mental health calls so far this year.

“What that involves is two officers, mental health apprehensions are a two-officer call. On average, those officers would remain at the hospital for at least two hours. So, what this increased protocol does is it allows the patient to be transferred more quickly and smoothly to hospital staff, which really where they belong,” says Miller.

Grey-Bruce is one of the first jurisdictions, and one of the largest, involving 13 agencies, to complete the new hospital transition protocol, being mandated by the province.

“Every case is unique and we want to make sure that we do the best we can for the patients that we service, and this protocols allows for that, and really puts the patient in the forefront,” says Howes.