Mental health emergency service calls have tripled over the past three years as the gap continues to grow in Hastings County for support services and affordable housing.
During her presentation to the Hastings County Community Safety and Well Being Committee Situation Table on Wednesday, chairwoman Marg Wagner said when it comes to mental illness, they are finding they don’t have fast enough access to resources. Belleville Police Chief Ron Gignac, a member of one of the 30 agencies ‘at the table,’ told Quinte News calls for service related to mental illness crises in the City have tripled over the past three years and ‘significant’ numbers will be presented in his annual report in April.
Many of the agency members agreed mental health remarks by Wagner and councillor Garnett Thompson were on point given January 25 is Bell Let’s Talk Day where a global conversation is taking place encouraging others to speak out and reach out in an effort to raise funds and eliminate the stigma attached to mental illness.
The committee’s situation table was developed in December 2015 and is made of agencies that work together on cases that require rapid interventions to support individuals and families who are in high risk situations. The group’s prime focus is on people facing an “acutely elevated risk” – a situation where a person or group has a high probability of imminent and significant harm or causing harm to others. Examples include committing an offence, being victimized, lapsing on a treatment or an overt mental health crisis.
Wagner said of the 27 cases the table worked on in 2016, 22 situations were suspected and diagnosed as mental health issues and 19 were unable to meet basic needs. Nine were in Quinte West, seven in Belleville and four in Centre Hastings.
She said the community is long underfunded when it comes to such supports. She said in November, former Belleville Police Chief Cory Mackay sent a letter to Prince Edward Hastings MPP Todd Smith with emergency response and situation table data requesting more support for mental health supports.
Chief Gignac said ‘we need all hands on deck’ to deal with mental health situations including fellow citizens in recognizing when someone is in crisis.
Also at the front lines of the issue is local Canadian Mental Health Association Executive Director Sandie Sidsworth who said in 2016 three councillors with the agency provided assistance to 370 people struggling with mental illness.
Sidsworth beamed how she is encouraged to see many people speaking out and offering personal stories.
If you or someone you know needs support for mental health and/or addiction call 310-OPEN (613-310-6736).