Nurse police team's impact is significant, pilot program finds
The program aims for nurses to work alongside police officers to assist individuals struggling with substance use disorders and mental health
Reprinted with permission from Nurse.org
By Gina Pardino, BSN, RN
On May 12, 2023, the Windsor Police Service and Windsor Regional Hospital, located in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, developed a pilot program called the Nurse and Police Team (NPT). The program aims for nurses to work alongside police officers to assist individuals struggling with substance use disorders and mental health.
About the nurse police pilot program
According to a report, the Windsor Police Service had a separate pilot program initiated in January 2023. The first program focused on reducing the time police officers spent in the E.R. while awaiting hospital staff to transfer individuals to the appropriate care. Based on a press release issued last month by Windsor Police, the pilot program was successful, indicating that transfer times have reduced from 3-11 hours to an average of about 22 minutes.
NPT is a new pilot program where Windsor Regional Hospital nurses work with Windsor Police officers to respond to non-emergent substance use and mental health cases. According to officials, some benefits that NPT may be able to provide include:
Offering care and supportive services that are proactive and approachable in a holistic and unbiased manner
Improving the welfare and safety of the community
Alleviating pressures in hospital emergency departments
Reducing mental health and substance abuse stigma
Jason Bellaire, Chief of the Windsor Police Service, shared: "This new initiative in our continued partnership is another positive step forward aiming to further reduce the stigma associated with substance use disorder while increasing access to appropriate agencies and support services that are vital for long-term recovery."
To prevent individuals from going to the emergency department and criminal justice system, NPT seeks to provide care and connect them to the right resources and supportive services. President and CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital, David Musyj, elaborated: "The nursing team members and the Windsor Police Service's partners are going to work together to help address substance abuse and related mental health incidents before someone might need emergency services by reaching out to these individuals where they're at. This is not a clinical service that their team, as an acute care organization, normally provides, but rather aim is to intervene with individuals at times when they are most likely to come into contact with emergency services."
Abbas Haider is a registered nurse from Windsor Regional Hospital who will be collaborating in the NPT program. Haider expressed: "We have seen it in many cases where we are treating individuals who otherwise could have had earlier treatment or interventions that could have prevented them from coming into the E.R. Unfortunately, for these individuals, they have nowhere else to go during the evening or on the weekends ... We will be helping these individuals with mental health and addictions."
Hours of operation originally began for nurses and officers in NPT on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Highlights of nurse police team
Officials have reported that the program has positively impacted the community since its launch.
Over three months, the team handled 374 service calls. In addition, the program referred 253 individuals to the appropriate community resources and diverted 147 cases from going to the emergency department. The teams were also able to provide treatments such as:
Treating substance-related wounds
Distributing Fentanyl test strips
Administering Naloxone doses
Furthermore, based on a statement made by Kristen Scott, the Director of Emergency services, individuals decreased their hospital visits after being seen by the NPT workforce.
"We have been able to determine that the individuals being seen by the NPT program have reduced their use of the Windsor Regional Hospital Ouellette Campus emergency department by 30% since they were seen by NPT as compared to the number of their visits before the program started," Scott shared.
NPT continues to operate three days during the week, but the hours of operation have changed from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. due to member assessments. Moreover, Windsor Regional Hospital and Windsor Police are collaborating to make NPT available at different times and in other locations.
"We have received inquiries from other police services and hospitals across the province who are looking at these strategies as potential models to examine and possibly implement in their own cities," shared Bellaire.
Officials will continue to provide updates on the program's partnerships within the upcoming weeks.
About the author
Gina Pardino, BSN, RN, is a registered nurse in the Chicagoland area. She has clinical experience working in acute rehabilitation and dermatology. In addition, she is a published contributing author of two books. Gina is passionate about using her nursing knowledge and skills in writing to educate the public on health and wellness topics. Check out Gina's website freelyrnwritings.com