The Community Outreach and Support Team (COAST) is a partnership between St. Joseph’s Health Care London (St. Joseph’s), Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Elgin-Middlesex, Middlesex-London Paramedic Service (MLPS), and London Police Service (LPS).
What is COAST?
The COAST team connects with individuals in London who are at risk of crisis or frequently experience crisis, due to a struggle with mental health, mental illness and/or addiction. For these individuals, the program provides proactive intervention, de-escalation and safe transition to the appropriate health care setting. The program is led by community health care providers and supported by police services.
The main goals of the COAST program are to reduce police-led responses to situations in which an individual is experiencing a mental health/addiction crisis, reducing interactions with police officers in these scenarios and most importantly, improving outcomes for these individuals by ensuring they receive the appropriate care in the appropriate setting.
What services does COAST provide?
The COAST team will regularly engage and interact with individuals living in the London community (16 years of age or older) with serious mental health issues; individuals who are in frequent crisis; and individuals who are at risk of crisis (individuals living with addiction, poverty and/or homelessness) and aims to:
- Support individuals living with mental illness, mental health and/or addiction issues through specific care plans and proactive crisis intervention
- Assist individuals in navigating and accessing local addiction and mental health care services and programs
- Divert individuals from unnecessary hospital emergency department visits
- Divert individuals from unnecessary involvement in the criminal justice system
- Decrease stigma towards individuals living with mental health and/or addiction issues
- Build and maintain effective partnerships between police services and health care providers
How are COAST services accessed?
The majority of individuals who may benefit from proactive COAST involvement are currently identified and referred by LPS or CMHA’s Crisis Services and intake team. At times, individuals may also be connected with COAST through calls for services received by LPS. This would be dependent on the nature of the call, as well as COAST availability. Referrals are reviewed for an urgent response within 24-72 hours.
Will COAST respond to calls for people in crisis?
While the COAST program model is primarily a proactive outreach, rather than a reactive response, should a situation be encountered where there is a person in acute crisis and the COAST team is available, they will be engaged for support.