EDITORIAL: Information sharing crucial

Quick access to mental health details could prevent future crises.

Whether Mounties having quicker access to information regarding the mental health of Jeffrey Scott Hughes could have prevented his death can never be known.

The fact is that when officers responded to a noise complaint on Oct. 23, 2009, and found an obviously troubled Hughes uttering threats and later brandishing what appeared to be a handgun, they could not immediately get information about his mental health background.

The escalating events that ensued ultimately led to Hughes’s death.

While knowing more about Hughes’s troubled past might not have been enough to prevent his death that day, the recommendation of the coroner’s jury that such information sharing be enhanced is of utmost importance.

The job of a police officer is far more than catching criminals and handing out speeding tickets.

Police are asked to play countless and varied roles every day. The types of calls and complaints to which they respond are numerous, each requiring a different set of skills and expertise.

Perhaps chief among those skills is the ability to respond appropriately to mental health issues – many of the people with whom police come in contact are dealing with some form of mental health difficulty.

Police are often, by default, front-line mental health workers. While many of those complaints are not criminal, they often require police assistance to diffuse the situation, after which health professionals take the reins.

As such, it is vital that mental health professionals and police have a integral communication link.

That information could well prove crucial in preventing critical situations.

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