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Developing a Best Practice Model for Mental Health Crisis Care: A Community-Engaged Approach

By: Danielle Pomeroy, Polly Ford-Jones, and Sheryl Thompson

Tags: November 2022, Vol. 3, Issue 1

Emergency response to mental health calls has recently gained significant attention, recognizing that these interactions may have substantial, potentially life and death consequences for those already in distress. Current responses to mental health emergencies may involve 9-1-1 dispatchers, paramedic services, police services and hospital emergency department (ED) services. In Ontario, mental health-related visits to the ED increased by 21% between 2011 and 2016. Across Canada, for those aged 5-24, mental health related emergency department visits increased by as much as 75% since 2006.

Many of these individuals experience repeat visits to the ED where prior needs have been unmet. For ongoing mental health support, community-based organizations are a critical support for those with mental health needs, yet many current models of care appear to consistently fall short of adequately serving people during a mental health crisis. In order to address this issue, it is crucial to have input from a diverse array of stakeholders including emergency first responders, ED staff, practitioners, community organizations who currently provide mental health care, and service users themselves.

This project aims to develop a best practice model for mental health crisis care in Ontario. It explores the ways in which community-based organizations and acute care institutions can collaboratively inform emergency mental health response. Of particular interest for this project are non-traditional, non-medicalized approaches to mental health support, including peer support, and approaches that account for the social determinants of health to support members of the community in need of emergency mental health care. In this project, researchers aimed to develop practices to support members of the community in need of emergency mental health assistance, with particular attention to those of lower socioeconomic status, Black and Indigenous communities, racialized people, 2SLGBTQ+ and immigrant communities. Members of these communities are disproportionately affected by intersecting structures of oppression that negatively affect their mental health and are at greater risk for negative interactions with emergency services.

Pomeroy, Ford-Jones, and Thompson’s research was comprised of input from a multi-disciplinary, multi-sector team made up of scholars, clinicians, and partnerships with community organizations. The research team brings frontline work and scholarly experience in the areas of paramedicine, police foundations, emergency telecommunications, emergency department nursing, social work, and counselling. This team is partnered with TAIBU Community Health Centre, Middlesex London Paramedic Service, and has received formal endorsement from Mental Health Research Canada. This study is funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) College and Community Social Innovation Fund (CCSIF).

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