A $1.8-million Sioux Lookout program aimed at reaching out to people suffering from addiction and mental-health problems before they end up charged by police, or in hospital emergency rooms, will run for four years.
The crisis response and harm reduction program spearhead by public health and mental-health agencies is to pick up where a one-year pilot project left off.
“The goals of this program include . . . timely access to mental health and addictions services, reducing the number of incidents that result in emergency department visits and criminal charges,” said a news release from the Northwestern Health Unit, one of the participating agencies.
A similar approach is being employed in Kenora.
Funding for the Sioux Lookout program comes from Health Canada. As part of the program, nurses and mental-health counsellors are to accompany police officers on service calls, just as they did for the pilot project that ran between February 2019 and March this year.
The pilot program made contact with 150 people and directed them to “appropriate health care and support services.”
The coronavirus pandemic may delay the new program from becoming fully operational, the release said.
“We are thrilled to be able to have all these partners come together to develop solutions to issues that people in Sioux Lookout face when it comes to (drug use),” said NWHU Harm Reduction program manager Gillian Lunny.