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CMHA pilot project making positive IMPACT on U of G students

Entrance to University of Guelph. Ken Hashizume/CJOY

It’s been one year since a pilot project was introduced at the University of Guelph to assist students who are dealing with mental health problems.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Waterloo Wellington’s IMPACT (Integrated Mobile Police and Crisis Team) program has a worker stationed on campus to provide afterhours mental health support for students.

116 visits were recorded with an IMPACT U of G worker attending 13 live calls. 23 per cent of the calls were diverted from police and 76.9 per cent of the students were diverted from hospital because of the support they received.

“It’s been invaluable in having the IMPACT worker work with our community safety office in responding to those events,” said Alison Burnett, director of Student Wellness at the university’s Vaccarino Centre for Student Wellness in a press release. “And increasing capacity amongst the community in how to manage and respond to individuals who may be in crisis.”

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The IMPACT program was developed by CMHA WW to assist police services in mental health, addiction, and crisis calls.

It has proven to be successful in their partnerships with Waterloo Regional Police Service, Guelph Police Service, and Wellington County OPP according to Aleah Wagner, manager of the IMPACT program.

“Is there is a possibility that we don’t need a police response? What is needed are mental health services,” Wagner said. “We’ve been successful in the 20 to 25 per cent of the calls we’ve been able to divert not needing police presence.”

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The pilot project began at the University of Guelph when many institutions in Ontario and had not fully opened their campuses to students due to COVID-19.

“I think we are still continuing to learn about the program,” said Burnett.

CMHA WW have recently partnered with the University of Waterloo in implementing the IMPACT program there.

Wagner said the next step is moving beyond the pilot phase to an ongoing program and being able to leverage funding in order to continue the program.

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