Community Partners Develop New Training Initiative for Police Officers

January 11, 2008
Durham Regional Police will soon participate in the development of a First Responder Interactive Simulation Training program to help them respond even more effectively to situations involving mental health clients.

The program represents a unique partnership between Whitby Mental Health Centre, Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS), Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). The program will consist of interactive video-based learning objects that focus on some of the most common incidents police encounter involving persons presumed to have a mental illness. This initiative builds on a previously successful collaboration between WMHC, DRPS and UOIT that resulted in the development and implementation of an educational session for Special Constables, focusing on effective strategies for interacting with mental health clients.

“This program facilitates a greater understanding of some of the challenges individuals with a mental illness experience,” says Jim Cyr, Administrative Director, Forensic Program at WMHC. “It represents true collaboration within the community and ensures frontline officers can respond to specific situations using the most appropriate therapeutic communication strategies.”

The Inukshuk Wireless Learning Plan provided $69,522 for this groundbreaking simulation project. “This grant will not only help educate police officers and reduce stigma associated with mental illness, but it will also strengthen and enhance our relationships with community partners by working together to address a common issue,” says Wendy Stanyon, Assistant Professor at UOIT.

The First Responder Interactive Simulation Training project will begin in January at UOIT and Durham College. Constable Corey Walsh, Coordinator of the DRPS Mental Health Support Unit, says police officers are looking forward to participating in the development of the simulations. “This initiative will continue to strengthen the quality of police service we provide to the community and ensure we understand the most effective ways of responding to individuals with a mental illness.”

These learning resources can be used within a classroom setting and will also be suitable for self-directed study. The knowledge and skills acquired through these interactive learning objects can be utilized by other professionals including nurses, paramedics, human service counselors, as well as faculty and students in related programs in post secondary educational institutions.

About WMHC
Whitby Mental Health Centre is a public hospital that serves a population of 2.8 million residents and employs over 1200 people. WMHC provides a range of specialized mental health programs for inpatients and outpatients throughout a primary service area that includes Durham Region, York Region, Scarborough, Toronto, Haliburton, Northumberland, Peterborough Counties and the City of Kawartha Lakes. WMHC also operates treatment residences in Stouffville and Oshawa; provides specialized community outreach services; and supports residents in privately operated Homes for Special Care. In addition, the Centre is actively involved in mental health research and education activities.

WMHC and its Board of Directors are committed to working in consultation with the community at large towards reaching its vision and implementing its strategic directions. For more information on strategic planning initiatives and operational data, or to provide feedback on program services, policies or the facility, please contact WMHC Information at 905-668-5881 ext. 6631 or communications@ontarioshores.ca.

For more information, or to set up an interview, please contact:
Communications and Public Affairs
Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences
905-430-4055 ext. 4001