Ontario government asked to fund expansion of Guelph’s IMPACT program

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The Ontario government is being asked to fund the expansion of Guelph’s Integrated Mobile Police and Crisis Team (IMPACT) program.

It pairs Guelph police officers with clinicians from the Canadian Mental Health Association during calls involving people in crisis.

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Currently, IMPACT only operates from 8 a.m. until midnight.

CMHA Waterloo Wellington, Guelph police and the City of Guelph are calling on the province to fund the expansion of the program to 24/7 coverage.

A joint letter signed by Mayor Cam Guthrie, Chief of Police Gord Cobey and CMHA Waterloo Wellington CEO Helen Fishburn has been sent to the Associate Minister of Health Michael Tibollo.

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“IMPACT has been transformative for Guelph residents experiencing mental health emergencies,” the letter states.

“Vulnerable residents involved in 911 calls have access to mental health professionals trained in providing crisis support, reducing unnecessary hospital trips as well as intrusive apprehensions.”

The letter goes on to detail how there has been a “noticeable uptick” in mental health crisis-related calls for service in the last four years.

In 2018, Guelph saw 1,988 requests for mental health services and IMPACT was able to divert 82.3 per cent of them from the hospital.

So far in 2021, there has been 2,544 requests and IMPACT has only been able to divert 30 per cent of calls.

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“Not only would piloting 24/7 IMPACT lead to a reduction of police hours spent in hospital, it would also generate significant savings for our health system,” the letter stated.

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“We estimate that offering IMPACT 24/7 would generate up to $3.6M in savings a year for Guelph General Hospital while only costing approximately $1.6M in additional annual expenses.”

A copy of the letter was also sent to Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner.

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