Mental health calls a growing concern at London Police Services Board meeting

Courtesy of London Police Service's facebook page

The rising numbers of mental health calls was a hot topic at the London Police Board meeting Thursday afternoon.

The major concern was the lack of funding and police training on how to respond to such calls.

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Council chairperson Mo Salih says it’s not right to expect the front-line officers to be experts in every single thing in the community.

Daryl Longworth, deputy police chief, says government needs to invest more money in health care and mental heath services, so officers can provide preventive and proactive care.

“The unfortunate part is our officers are stuck dealing with mental health issues,” Longworth said. “It’s not a law enforcement function, per se, but it is something we deal with in addition to some other social concerns in the community.”

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“We are forced to, because a lot of times, we are the only 24/7 business in town. Our officers are out there, and our officers won’t turn a blind eye when they see somebody struggling or get called to a circumstance.”

He adds that when officers respond to these cases, there is a lack of resources to which they can take or refer people in order to receive the help they need.

Salih also voiced his concern about the increase in domestic violence calls and investigation times.

He says the delays are as a result of the amount of new processes and policies put in place by government.

Longworth agreed, saying a lot of legislative requirements from provincial standards are driving investigation times up.

He says the policies are to improve investigations, but the workload has increased and they need more officers.

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The meeting took place at city hall Thursday, June 21, where a motion to recognize National Indigenous Peoples Day was introduced and supported unanimously.

Board member Vanessa Ambtman-Smith, who is also the Indigenous health lead for South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), brought a new motion forward to address issues faced by indigenous people including violence.

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Ambtman-Smith says she wants to see intentions transformed into deliberate action, emphasizing that there have been a lot of programs that didn’t result in change.

According to her motion, the board can act on this by “adopting and implementing the United Nations’ declaration on the rights of indigenous people as a framework for reconciliation within the board’s forthcoming strategic plan.”

Her motion was supported by other board members.

The board will have their next meeting on Sept. 20, as well as a strategy session on July 28.

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