Paramedic service plan for mental health teams sets off sirens

·2 min read
The Ottawa Paramedic Service is forging a plan to develop teams that would go out on mental health calls, but at least one city councillor says she's concerned about taking a 'siloed' approach to the issue. (Ashley Burke/CBC News - image credit)
The Ottawa Paramedic Service is forging a plan to develop teams that would go out on mental health calls, but at least one city councillor says she's concerned about taking a 'siloed' approach to the issue. (Ashley Burke/CBC News - image credit)

Ottawa's paramedic service is looking at creating new teams to respond to mental health calls, but at least one city councillor thinks a more cohesive approach is required.

In a presentation to the city's community and protective services committee Thursday, Pierre Poirier, chief of the Ottawa Paramedic Service, said he would bring forward a plan later this year about forming the teams.

Poirier said they'd be made up of one paramedic and another "allied" health professional who could help people navigate the health-care system.

"We're not solving all the problems in the city, but we may be solving some of them," he said.

But Coun. Diane Deans, who chairs both the police and Crime Prevention Ottawa boards, said she's concerned by the "siloed" approach to mental health.

Deans is calling for a city-wide plan under Anthony Di Monte, Ottawa's general manager of emergency and protective services, and put forward a motion Thursday to create just that.

"All the players need to be at the same table developing one strategy," she said.

That motion was referred to council for further discussion.

Coun. Diane Deans tabled a motion to have the city's general manager of emergency and protective services oversee a cohesive city-wide plan to mental health calls.
Coun. Diane Deans tabled a motion to have the city's general manager of emergency and protective services oversee a cohesive city-wide plan to mental health calls. (CBC)

No co-ordinated plan: Deans

The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) is also in the process of developing its own mental health strategy, which it says will be developed with professionals in the field, community organizations and those who live with mental health issues.

The announcement of that strategy came after public outcry over the death of Abdirahman Abdi, a Black man who struggled with his mental health who died after a violent arrest by two Ottawa police officers in 2016.

"I think what I see emerging in the absence of that co-ordinated effort is all of these individualized mental health strategies ... popping up," Deans said at the meeting

"Paramedics will have a mental health strategy. Police are leading a mental health strategy."

Pierre Poirier, chief of the city's paramedic service, says there's an urgent need to help people in crisis.
Pierre Poirier, chief of the city's paramedic service, says there's an urgent need to help people in crisis.(Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Poirier said he has spoken with OPS Chief Peter Sloly about his plan, and said while there shouldn't be a "piecemeal approach" to mental health calls, there's also an urgent need to have something in place.

"Our belief here is that there's a sense of urgency that something has to be done. You know, I would argue that I don't think it's appropriate to wait five years for us to have the perfect strategy," he said.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting