Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Meet Halifax's Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team

An article posted on January 27th by CBC.ca:

Halifax's Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team is shrouded in secrecy.

They don't wear uniforms, they don't travel in marked vehicles and they keep the location of their headquarters a secret, to ensure the safety of the people working there.

Mary Pyche (pictured, centre), the program leader for crisis emergency services for the Capital District Health Authority, said the idea for a crisis team first started taking shape back in 2003.

"We started putting that proposal together to the department of health. Took a little while," she said.

"By 2006, we had the partnership up and running. We also included in the partnership the IWK as well, so that the service would offer crisis response in the community right across the age spectrum."

In a recent interview with CBC News, Pyche said the team handles about 1,000 cases a month. That's based on 300 to 350 people each making multiple calls for help to the team.

Pyche said 95 per cent of those calls are new — first-time callers or people who haven't called the crisis line for at least two months. That turnover is proof the team is successful, she said.

Mary-Beth Flory (pictured, right), a registered nurse and the clinical practice leader for the crisis team, spends her mornings preparing for when the team hits the road in the afternoon and evenings.

"Come 1 o'clock in the afternoon, the team sits down," Flory said.

"That's three clinicians and our two officers who are on for those hours. And we triage again where we're going to be going throughout the day — where we need to go first, what kind of supports do we believe the team is going to be needing to provide."

Halifax Regional Police support

Four members of Halifax Regional Police are assigned to the team. They work in plain clothes.

Const. Angela Balcolm (pictured, left), one of those officers, said a uniform wouldn't work in her job.

"We try to make people as comfortable as we can and of course, decriminalize mental illness," she said.

"We're there for the person's safety, not to look into any criminal matters."

Balcolm said officers operate under a memorandum of understanding, so they don't share what they hear on the crisis team with other police officers.

Pyche said the police officers give the team extra power.

"We knew if we could partner with police, that they had the authority to do wellness checks and we could go along with them," she said.

That police presence allows the team to respond when friends or family members warn about a person's deteriorating mental condition.

Not all 'lights and sirens'

Mary-Beth Flory said the team doesn't require family intervention to act.

"A person can refer themselves," Flory said.

"It's very easy access. It can simply be a phone call. A person does not need a referral from a physician or from a psychologist to access support, and that it is a wide range of intervention and services that can be provided."

For Angela Balcolm, working with the crisis team offers a different facet to police work.

"People watch TV and they see all the shows like Cops and all that," she said.

"Is that a reality in our work? Absolutely. Sometimes."

Balcolm said her work isn't all "lights and sirens."

"I think it's huge to see this program that is assisting people because the police role in this is huge — getting people, detaining people and taking individuals into hospital, if that's what needs to happen," she said.

Photograph by Blair Rhodes / CBC

Also see:

Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team

Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team (PDF)

Emergency Crisis Services - Mental Health Services - Cape Breton District Health Authority - Call (902) 567-7767


Wayne Moulton said...

I just want to say i appreciate your efforts as strange as they may be. I contacted you today and feel worse for doing so. I asked for the support to aid my spouse. My spouse has developed a mental issue since youth. She is 58 and I am now breaking down physically and mentally because of it. When they arrived to help,as was told, the social worker was accompanied by a police office. I asked the plain clothes officer if she was armed and she said yes. I told her i don't allow guns in my house. To me, guns represent negative thoughts. They simply are meant to be used to kill. Obviously, the "team" doesn't identify with what a mentally ill person would in the presence of a firearm. I told them i would not be present if the firearm was brought in my home. My wife needs the help and i could not let that stop the visit. I was told on the phone that the support was for both of us but when i did decide to sit and answer a couple questions because i love my wife dearly, i was told that they were not there for me and had no time for me. This is not what i was told when speaking to the person on the phone. I could care less in the long run about this but in my wifes life there was her sons suicide. When he was found, he barely looked human. The social worker showed up with a scarf on with skulls all over it. My wife came to me after and asked did i see it, with shock in her eyes. I am happy that an appointment was made for my wife. I am very lost as to where my support went. Sometimes people ask " what could have made that person take their own life?" Regardless of how i feel right now, i'm glad my wife feels someone else besides me cares about her. Sincerely, Wayne Moulton

Wayne Moulton said...

If you wish to reply to my comment above, please email me at nightshawks@hotmail.com

Wayne Moulton said...

rom : Wayne Moulton. Nightshawks@hotmail.com

Well, here it is the following week and my wife was called to come up for an appointment . They had an appointment ready for yesterday ( Tuesday). When she arrived, they told her that the person who was suppose to "help" her didn't show up. So, here we go with the Bullshit. My wife had to come home again. You're so called " team" is everything I expected. A "crisis team is suppose to be there for you. Thanks to this team for nothing. Not even a call back was made regarding her present condition. So much for follow up. So, what's the next step guys. Lots of drugs , or the end of a rope ?????????????????????????????