The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) is set to present its new Mental Health Response Strategy (MHRS), with a consultation approach, to the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB) for approval.
The presentation will take place at the board's January 25 meeting.
The OPS says its community-led strategy will be co-developed with mental healthcare and addictions professionals, community-based organizations, academics and those with lived experience, and will be expected to help to support a whole-of-community approach to responding to residents in mental health crisis.
The OPS says it has reached out to multiple frontline agencies and healthcare groups to support the establishment of a Guiding Council, which will develop the strategy and establish best-practices.
Residents are expected to get an opportunity to contribute to the development of the strategy through consultations, including an online questionnaire.
"The strategy recognizes that the OPS must improve the way its members respond to calls for service where mental health and addictions are an issue," says the OPS in a statement, Thursday, January 21. "But better crisis response is only part of the solution. We also recognize that new, more appropriate and effective options need to be created to replace police responses to many calls involving mental health and addictions. For this to occur, new systems and networks need to be built or strengthened to develop a more appropriate response."
"This is a critical issue for our community and it is directly linked to our involvement in community safety and well-being, through our duty of care to build public trust with the people we serve," says Deputy Chief Steve Bell. "We are listening and learning. The strategy will take a holistic look at the mental well-being landscape in Ottawa in an effort to provide better access to services for people in distress as we work towards better mental health outcomes in our community."
The OPS says a consultation approach, part of a three-year strategy, will incorporate feedback from Ottawa’s diverse communities, including Indigenous, black, youth, LGBTQ+ and other racialized communities, and will align with the city and province’s Community Safety and Well-Being (CSWB) plans. It will also solicit feedback from OPS members in order to gain a broad picture of how we respond to those in crisis.
Police say updates will be regularly posted to the OPS website, including opportunities for residents to provide feedback and help to contribute to the development of the strategy.