Transcript: How Thunder Bay Handles Crisis | Mar 19, 2021

Jeyan sits in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and burgundy tie.

A caption on screen reads "How Thunder Bay handles crisis. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

A wall screen behind him reads "Ontario Hubs."

Jeyan says THIS WEEK FEDERAL MINISTER OF HEALTH AND THE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR THUNDER BAY SUPERIOR NORTH, PATTY HAJDU CALLED THE LAKEHEAD A COVID HOT SPOT. HERE TO GIVE US AN UPDATE ON THAT ON A NEW CRISIS INTERVENTION INITIATIVE UNDERWAY THERE, IN RED ROCK, ON THE NORTH SHORE OF LAKE SUPERIOR, CHARNEL ANDERSON, WHO COVERS THE NORTHWESTERN PART OF THE PROVINCE FOR OUR ONTARIO HUBS.

Charnel is in her twenties, with straight brown hair. She's wearing glasses, a black blazer and a white shirt.

She says THANKS, JEYAN.

Jeyan says IT STARTED WELL. BUT WHAT HAPPENED?

The caption changes to "Charnel Anderson. Northwestern Ontario Hub Journalist."
Then, it changes again to "A COVID-19 emergency."

Charnel says HERE IN THE NORTHWEST THE PROVINCE IT'S RELATIVELY BEAUTIFUL ISOLATED LOCATION. FOR MUCH OF 2020 OUR COVID-19 CASES WERE RELATIVELY LOW. BUT THAT CHANGED IN THE FALL. THERE WAS AN OUTBREAK IN PICKLE BALL PLAYERS AND THEN AT SOUTH VIEW ROSE VIEW, A LONG-TERM CARE HOME. UNFORTUNATELY THAT RESULTED IN THE DEATH OF 23 RESIDENTS THERE. BUT STILL IT WAS MAINLY INSTITUTIONAL OUTBREAKS AT THIS POINT THAT WERE DRIVING THE NUMBERS. AND THAT REMAINS TRUE THROUGH JANUARY WITH THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF TWO OUTBREAKS IN TWO CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES IN THE CITY. SO THOSE WERE DECLARED ON JANUARY 6th. BY THE TIME THEY WERE RESOLVED, THEY INFECTED NEARLY 200 INMATES AND CORRECTIONAL STAFF. I ALSO UNDERSTAND THERE WERE AT LEAST FOUR INMATES RELEASED WHILE POSITIVE FOR COVID-19. AND SO ABOUT A MONTH AFTER THE JAIL OUTBREAK WAS ANNOUNCED, THE THUNDER BAY DISTRICT HEALTH UNIT ANNOUNCED AN OUTBREAK. SO PEOPLE WHO ARE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS OR VULNERABLY HOUSED. THAT WAS IN FEBRUARY. NOT LONG AFTER THAT THE NUMBERS STARTED RISING THROUGHOUT THE COMMUNITY. AND SO THAT RISE HAS BEEN REFLECTED AND THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN HOSPITAL WITH COVID-19. SO AS OF YESTERDAY, THERE WERE 39 PEOPLE FROM THE THUNDER BAY REGION IN THE HOSPITAL RECEIVING COVID-19 TREATMENT FOR COVID-19. AND 12 OF THOSE WERE IN THE INTENSIVE CARE UNIT. AS WELL, THERE WAS AN OUTBREAK DECLARED IN THE HOSPITAL LAST WEEK. AND IT'S A MEDICINE UNIT SO THAT PROMPTED THE HOSPITAL TO GO INTO LOCK DOWN AND THEN THE FOLLOWING DAY THEY STARTED SENDING INTENSIVE CARE PATIENTS TO OTHER HOSPITALS IN SOUTHWESTERN SOUTHEASTERN ONTARIO.

Jeyan says I AM SURE THIS IS NOT A TITLE THUNDER BAY WANTS. CURRENTLY THUNDER BAY REASONABLE HAS THE MOST COVID-19 CASES PER CAPITA IN THE ENTIRE PROVINCE. WITH... THERE ARE SOME OTHER CONTRIBUTING FACTORS IN HOW THIS VIRUS IS SPREADING. CAN YOU SHARE WHAT EXPERTS HAVE BEEN TELLING YOU?

The caption changes to "Charnel Anderson, @charneland."

Charnel says SO I SPOKE TO THE MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH AT THE THUNDER BAY DISTRICT HEALTH UNIT. AND SHE HAD ACTUALLY PUBLISHED A VIDEO ON MARCH 8th, ABOUT TWO WEEKS AGO THAT COVID-19 IS ESSENTIALLY EVERYWHERE. AND SO UP UNTIL THIS POINT NOW, WE HAVE... THE OUTBREAK'S IN THE CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES HAVE BEEN RESOLVED. MEANWHILE THE OUTBREAK IN THE VULNERABLE POPULATION REMAINS ONGOING. BUT, YOU KNOW, Dr. DE MILLE IDENTIFIED A NUMBER OF FACTORS RELATED TO THE SPREAD. SHE HAS HEARD ANECDOTALLY ABOUT PEOPLE GATHERING TOGETHER, CHILDREN'S BIRTHDAY PARTIES. JUST MORE PEOPLE INTERACTING AND, OF COURSE, THAT'S HOW THIS VIRUS SPREADS, RIGHT? AS WELL, THERE'S BEEN A VARIANT OF CONCERN IDENTIFIED IN THE REGION. WE DON'T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT IT IS YET. BUT WE DO KNOW THAT IT'S HERE NOW.

Jeyan says NOW, UNDER THE PROVINCE'S COVID-19 RESPONSE FRAMEWORK, THUNDER BAY REASONABLE RIGHT NOW IS IN THE GREY ZONE WHICH MEANS LOCK DOWN. WHAT ARE WE HEARING FROM THIS TERMS OF GOVERNMENT RESPONSE AND THE PUBLIC HEALTH UNITS? WHAT ARE THEY DOING?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Charnel says RIGHT. SO A NUMBER OF POLITICIANS AS WELL AS Dr. JANET DE MILLE THEY WANT THE PROVINCE TO KLEE CLAIRE THUNDER BAY A COVID-19 HOT SPOT. SO, FOR EXAMPLE, THAT WOULD HAVE ALLOWED POSSIBLY THUNDER BAY-ITES TO PARTICIPATE IN THE ASTRAZENECA PROJECT THAT WE'RE SEEING IN TORONTO WHERE THE PHARMACIES ARE ADMINISTERING VACCINES. SO THAT IS NOT HAPPENING IN THUNDER BAY RIGHT NOW. HOWEVER, WE HAVE RECEIVED, I BELIEVE, 1,000 ADDITIONAL DOSES OF THE MODERNA VACCINE THIS WEEK. AND SO THAT IS ABOVE AND BEYOND WHAT WE WOULD HAVE WOULD HAVE RECEIVED OTHERWISE. AND IN TERMS OF OTHER SUPPORT, YOU KNOW THE PROVINCE AND NGOs HAVE, WE'RE STILL WAITING TO HEAR ABOUT FEDERAL SUPPORT AS YOU SAID PATTY HAJDU. SO SHE MADE AN ANNOUNCEMENT THE OTHER DAY. SHE'S FROM THUNDER BAY, RIGHT. AND SHE SAID THEY ARE WORKING ON SOME SUPPORT FOR THE ISOLATION SHELTERS AND THAT WAS A REQUEST FROM THE CITY OF THUNDER BAY WHEN THEY DECLARED A STATE OF EMERGENCY ON FEBRUARY... IN EARLY FEBRUARY.

Jeyan says I WANT TO MOVE TO ANOTHER KIND OF CRISIS. YOU ARE WORKING ON A STORY ABOUT THUNDER BAY'S RECENTLY LAUNCHED UPDATE TO ITS CRISIS RESPONSE UNIT. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THIS PROGRAM?

A screenshot from the TVO website pops up showing an article. It reads "tvo.org/OntarioHubs. Thunder Bay. 'Meeting people where they're at': How mobile crisis-response teams work. By Charnel Anderson."

The caption changes to "The new Crisis Response team."

A picture shows a man and a woman in black uniforms sitting inside a truck. They wear face masks.
Another picture shows a group of about two dozen people posing inside a large room.

Charnel says BACK IN JANUARY THE IMPACT TEAM WAS LAUNCHED IN THUNDER BAY. SO IMPACT STANDS FOR... LET ME SEE IF I CAN REMEMBER: INTEGRATED MOBILE POLICE ASSESSMENT CRISIS TEAM. AND SO ESSENTIALLY WHAT IT IS IS TEAMS OF UP TO ONE POLICE OFFICER AND ONE MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS WORKER. AND WHAT THEY DO, SO YOU CAN SEE CONSTABLE JEFF ELVISH AND VICTORIA LANE WHO IS THE CRISIS WORKER. THEY RIDE TOGETHER AND THEY RESPOND TO MENTAL HEALTH CALLS TOGETHER. AND THERE'S A PHOTO OF THE TEAM TRAINING. SO THERE ARE POLICE OFFICERS AS WELL AS THE CRISIS WORKERS. THEY DID THAT TRAINING IN 2020 KIND OF PRIOR TO THE LAUNCH OF THE IMPACT TEAM. AND SO THE IMPACT TEAM IS A PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE THUNDER BAY POLICE, THE CANADIAN MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION AND THE THUNDER BAY REGIONAL HEALTH SCIENCES CENTRE. AND IT ACTUALLY BUILDS UPON A PREVIOUS INITIATIVE WHICH WAS CALLED THE JOINT MOBILE CRISIS RESPONSE. BUT THE DIFFERENCE IS NOW THERE'S KIND OF MORE INTEGRATION BETWEEN THE POLICE AND THE CRISIS WORKERS. SO THEY RIDE TOGETHER AS I MENTIONED. AND ALSO THIS PROGRAM IS 24 HOURS A DAY INSTEAD OF 12 HOURS A DAY AS ITS PREDECESSOR WAS RUNNING.

Jeyan says I'M CURIOUS: WHAT LED TO THE CREATION OF THE TEAM? WHAT WAS THE NEED?

Charnel says YEAH, SO IN THUNDER BAY, SPECIFICALLY, MENTAL HEALTH CALLS HAVE BEEN ON THE RISE FOR THE LAST FIVE OR SIX YEARS. SO, FOR EXAMPLE, IN 2014 THERE WERE JUST OVER 1,055 MENTAL HEALTH CALLS MADE TO THE THUNDER BAY POLICE. AND THAT ROSE TO ABOUT 1,800 IN 2020. AND SO BEFORE THE LAUNCH OF THESE INITIATIVES, POLICE OFFICERS WERE OFTEN TIED UP IN THE HOSPITAL WAITING FOR PATIENTS TO BE ADMITTED. AND SO IT WAS ALWAYS TWO POLICE OFFICERS RESPONDING TO THESE CALLS. AND SO THAT'S TWO POLICE OFFICERS WHO ARE WAITING IN HOSPITAL LIKE I HAVE TOO, SIX, SEVEN HOURS. AND THEN, YOU KNOW, MAYBE ANOTHER TEAM RESPONDS TO ANOTHER MENTAL HEALTH CALL THEN THERE ARE FOUR OFFICERS. THAT WAS A BIG ISSUE FOR THEM. BUT THIS IS ALSO ABOUT CONNECTING PEOPLE TO THE RIGHT SERVICES. NOT EVERYONE NEEDS TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL. MAYBE THERE'S MORE APPROPRIATE CARE IN THE COMMUNITY. AND SO THE IMPACT TEAM HAS MORE KNOWLEDGE, MORE RESEARCH IN TERMS OF BEING ABLE TO CONNECT PEOPLE TO MORE APPROPRIATE SERVICE.

Jeyan says THIS MAY SOUND LIKE A DUMB QUESTION, BUT I AM CURIOUS HOW DID POLICE COME TO RESPOND TO MENTAL HEALTH CRISES IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Charnel says YEAH, I WAS WONDERING ABOUT THAT, TOO, WHEN I STARTED WORKING ON THIS. A LOT OF PEOPLE SAY THAT, YOU KNOW, MAYBE THE POLICE AREN'T THE ONES WHO SHOULD BE RESPONDING TO MENTAL HEALTH CALLS, RIGHT? MAYBE THEY DON'T HAVE THE RESOURCES NECESSARY. SO... BUT, OF COURSE, YOU KNOW, THE WORLD WE LIVE IN OFTEN TIMES IT IS THE POLICE WHO ARE RESPONDING TO MENTAL HEALTH CALLS. AND THAT KIND OF GOES BACK TO THE 1960s WHERE THE GOVERNMENT STARTED INSTITUTING POLICIES OF DEINSTITUTIONALIZATION. SO MOVING PEOPLE OUT OF PSYCHIATRIC CARE FACILITIES IN THE HOPES THAT THEY CAN RECEIVE CARE IN THE COMMUNITY. SO THE GOVERNMENT HAS DONE A GOOD JOB OF GETTING PEOPLE OUT OF THE FACILITIES BUT A LOT OF THE TIMES THE SERVICES HAVEN'T KEPT UP WITH THE DEMAND, RIGHT? SO THAT'S WHY OFTEN TIMES WE SEE THE POLICE RESPONDING TO THESE CALLS. AND SO THESE MOBILE CRISIS RESPONSE TEAMS LIKE IMPACT HAVE BEEN ESTABLISHED AS A WAY TO DECREASE POLICE CALLS ON MENTAL HEALTH CALLS.

Jeyan says WE KNOW THIS PROGRAM ISN'T THE FIRST PROVINCE. THERE ARE OTHER POLICE SERVICES IN NIAGARA, HAMILTON AND SUDBURY THAT ARE DOING IT. DO WE HAVE AN IDEA OF WHETHER THIS CRISIS RESPONSE INITIATIVE IS ACTUALLY WORKING?

Charnel says I MEAN, YEAH, SO LOCALLY IN THUNDER BAY OVER A SIX-WEEK PERIOD THEY HAD SOME STATISTICS SO THEY WERE ABLE TO DIVERT 40 percent OF PEOPLE AWAY FROM THE HOSPITALS SO IT IS WORKING IN THAT SENSE. AND I BELIEVE WHEN PEOPLE DO END UP IN HOSPITAL IT'S A BIT OF A QUICKER PROCESS. IN GENERAL, THOUGH, I SPOKE TO AN EXPERT WHO SAID HE IS STUDYING MOBILE RESPONSE TEAMS AND HE SAID THEY'RE PROMISING IN TERMS OF REDUCING THE POLICE PRESENCE AS WELL AS THEIR DECREASING THE USE OF FORCE AND UNNECESSARY HOSPITAL TRANSFERS. SO I THINK THEY'RE A PROMISING INITIATIVE AND THAT'S WHY YOU SEE THEM ALL OVER THE PROVINCE NOW.

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta."

Jeyan says CHARNEL, I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR BRINGING A VERY IMPORTANT STORY TO US TONIGHT. THAT'S CHARNEL ANDERSON, OUR NORTHWESTERN ONTARIO HUBS JOURNALIST.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Charnel says THANKS, JEYAN.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: How Thunder Bay Handles Crisis