LONDON, ONT. -- The Ontario government announced they will be investing in resources that will help police in responding to calls about mental health or addictions crisis.

On Tuesday the government announced a plan that includes an $8.4 million investment over the next three years towards the new Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Crisis Call Diversion Program.

The program will have a professional mental health and addictions specialist that will provide the appropriate resources and tools to help an individual who is calling in crisis.

The specialist will also provide support and assist in preliminary de-escalation techniques when called in emergency situations.

“By offering critical crisis response services, dedicated mental health and addictions specialists will ensure individuals experiencing a crisis can access immediate supports while diverting the need for police interventions in non-emergency situations,” said Solicitor General, Sylvia Jones in a press release.

The program was first piloted at the OPP London Communications Centre and saw success in assisting with calls about mental health and substance abuse issues, relationship conflicts and family concerns.

“Our officers respond to thousands of mental health calls a year,” said OPP Commissioner, Thomas Carrique in a press release.

“The Crisis Call Diversion Program not only reduces the use of police personnel for non-emergent responses when appropriate, but also helps individuals experiencing mental health crises by offering better pathways to meet their needs and supporting the de-stigmatization of mental health.”

Between Nov. 2, 2020 and June 6, 2021, crisis workers were engaged in 478 calls, 16 per cent of which were completely diverted from frontline officer response.

The remaining calls required officer assistance where the crisis worker stayed on the call and assisted in preliminary de-escalation.