A voluntary vulnerable person registry service now offered by the Woodstock Police Service will help both the community and the city’s officers.
The voluntary registry allows family members or caregivers of a vulnerable person to give information to the police to help in case of an emergency situation.
“The more information our officers have the better they’re able to support and serve the members of our community, so ultimately it was realized there was a need,” WPS Community Service Officer Shaylyn Jackson said. “There’s people we come into contact with regularly and get to know, but sometimes with the number of officers we have not all of them have experience with working with all of the people in our community that we meet with regularly.
“This is an opportunity for us to have more information if they’re being dispatched to a situation,” she added. “We’re able to voluntarily get information and store it in our database, so if something happens where a particularly person may be involved or nearby it gives us an understanding of how we should handle that particularly person.”
A vulnerable person’s defined as someone who can show a pattern of behaviour that might pose a danger to themselves or others due to a medical, mental health or physical condition.
Vulnerable people may include people with autism spectrum disorder, acquired brain injury or a mental health condition.
Police units throughout the province continue to see an increase in calls involving mental health.
The Woodstock police and Oxford OPP have a two-year pilot program funded by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services with Oxford OPP and the Canadian Mental Health Association to help de-escalate situations involving mental health calls.
The MHEART (Mental Health Engagement and Response Team) was launched in September 2018, and sees a CMHA crisis worker accompany police of mental health calls.
Woodstock Police Chief Bill Renton said at the time the MHEART program allows better use of resources and services.
“This means that individuals in crisis will receive more appropriate care while freeing up officers to do what they do best and that’s focusing on community safety,” he said in September.
Jackson said the registry will allow the police to be more prepared for specific situations.
“We’ve had a significant influx in mental health issues over the last few years and as a result we were able to implement our mental health unit (MHEART), which has helped,” she said. “We were finding officers were walking in blind to certain situations and we wanted to be more prepared. It’s for the community and officer’s safety.”
Jackson said since launching the program last week, they’ve already had people signing up.
“This allows the person submitting it (the registry form) to put in specific information of different ways how that person expresses,” she noted, adding it’s for people of al ages. “Everyone’s different, so it allows us to customize our services a bit with more information.”
The Alzheimer Society of Oxford also offers a registry called Finding your Way for people with dementia related problems, which is available at their website (www.alzheimer.ca/en/oxford)
Jackson said when a person submits the form, it’s processed by clerks. If an officer is dispatched to a person in the database, they can give the officer better preparation before arriving to their call.
“There’s more ability for our officers to know if there’s been past experiences and how to handle a situation,”
To find the form, visit the WPS website at: http://bit.ly/WPSregistry
Source: Greg Colgan – Woodstock Sentinel Review