Windsor Ont.'s top cop and doctor are speaking publicly about the need for more mental health services in the region, following the shooting death of 70-year-old man in the city.
Acting police Chief Jason Bellaire says officers are frequently being called to help those in mental distress in the region, and people are often taken to the emergency room at hospitals for lack of better services.
"There needs to be a place to bring these people or places or services that are open and able to accept these folks to provide them the services they need," said Bellaire.
"I think what we're looking for is to stop having a police response to things that aren't a police response, or to provide resources or assets to facilitate treatment for people so that the police aren't dealing with these people after they've been left in a system that has so many gaps and disconnects between services."
On August 15, 70-year-old Allan Andkilde was shot by a police officer in downtown Windsor. Police said he was waving a machete and threatening people. Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is investigating, and said that one officer used a Taser on Andkilde and then another shot him. Ambulances brought Andkilde to hospital where he was pronounced dead. Family and friends told CBC News that Andkilde struggled with addiction and mental illness.
"I think that this has been something that's been ignored for a long time and and it needs to be addressed immediately." - Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, Windsor-Essex acting medical officer of health
Windsor police receive training about deescalation and dealing with people experiencing a mental health crisis, said Bellaire, and they will continue to respond to all emergency calls.
But Bellaire would like to see a destination specifically that treats people experiencing mental health issues — separate from the current support services or hospital.
He said experts in mental health "need to do more, not just in what they do today, but they need to create the infrastructure to deal with these situations."
"The police will still attend and do these things, but we need a destination to bring people," said Bellaire.
Lack of access needs to be addressed, says top doctor
Meeting the needs of mental health and psychiatric patients is a real challenge, said Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, acting medical officer of health at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.
"I would say it's a crisis, to be quite honest, as a crisis and access for mental health services in this province," Nesathurai said during a media briefing Thursday.
Meeting the need for services is particularly challenging for children and people that are disadvantaged, he said, adding there is an overlap between substance use and mental health challenges that requires particular attention.
"I think that we as a society, which is a province, have to improve access for services but for both physician services — that's your psychiatrist — and non-physician services such as psychologists and social workers," Nesathurai said.
The pandemic has further exacerbated access to health services overall, crowding programs as staff are off sick, said Nesathurai.
"Many people have serious psychiatric illness and they can't get in to see a psychiatrist," said Nesathurai. "Many children have serious mental health issues and they can't get in to see a child psychiatrist. The waiting lists are completely unacceptable in some cases."
He said there needs to be action, because without access, patients can't get care.
"I think that this has been something that's been ignored for a long time and and it needs to be addressed immediately."