"creating a hospital without walls"
May 9, 2008 1:35 PM   Subscribe

In a pilot project with Canada's National Film Board, Katerina Cizek is Filmmaker-in-Residence at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital (Flash site with videos). She directed The Interventionists: Chronicles of a Mental Health Crisis Team, a film about a unique crisis team in downtown Toronto. A mental health nurse and a police officer ride the streets of the inner city together in an unmarked police car, responding to 911 calls involving "emotionally disturbed persons." The team is a partnership between St. Michael's Hospital and two downtown police divisions. Their mandate is to de-escalate crises and avoid unnecessary arrests and emergency room visits by providing referrals, services and resources within a patient's own community.

Excerpts from the film have been shown to the Toronto Police Services Board, who then voted unanimously to expand the service.

The documentary recently won the Webby award for Documentary Series. If you are in Toronto, the film is available free for viewing at the NFB Mediatheque.
posted by heatherann (12 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
For those of you in Toronto, the community group in my area, DIG IN, is screening this at Bloor Collegiate (1141 Bloor St. West) on Monday at 7:00 PM. (It is playing with Street Health Stories as part of a documentary series they've been running for the past few months.)
posted by chunking express at 1:51 PM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Some added context: When I was a graduating medical student back in the day, St. Michael's was known as *the* place to train for internal medicine in Canada. Might be different now, but probably not. Just so you don't think of the hospital as an anonymous St. Elsewhere.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:56 PM on May 9, 2008

Never a dull moment in this line of work. The team I was assigned to when I did this type of work was called the CORE Team (Community Outreach Recovery and Education) but was referred to by everyone in the agency as the HardCORE Team. You know that when and entire agency full of seasoned mental health professionals and homeless services case managers calls your team the HardCORE Team your work environment is seriously hardcore. We dealt with the most chronically mentally ill, most frequently incarcerated, most frequently shelter dwelling, most frequently involuntarily committed to mental facilities with the same goals in mind: reduce arrests, shelter stays, detox stays, emergency room and psych unit usage.

We were good for one naked incident a week. My clients loved to get naked and direct traffic, get naked and pump gas for people, get naked and stab their neighbors. You know, run of the mill day at the office type stuff.
posted by The Straightener at 2:32 PM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Fantastic. Thank you.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:23 PM on May 9, 2008

The team is a partnership between St. Michael's Hospital and two downtown police divisions.

As far as I know, there are now four teams, or maybe that's four participating divisions.

I saw this a year ago and just remember thinking that the mental health worker in the duo they followed pretty much seemed to be human window dressing. As I recall, the cop did most of the talking, clearly thought he was in charge no matter what, and didn't really seem to take his partner's contributions too seriously.

I'm all for any project which reduces the number of people being diverted toward the courts, but the doc actually left me pretty disheartened with the program. Most of the situations shown didn't actually need a police officer at all, and he should have taken that as his cue and just waited politely.

It left me a little confused about what the program actually accomplishes. "Hello, we're a cop and a nurse. Do you need to go to jail tonight? No? OK, carry on being crazy and poor, then. Bye."
posted by regicide is good for you at 3:24 PM on May 9, 2008

You know I think I'll actually just pop back in and say the word "actually" a few more times.

posted by regicide is good for you at 3:47 PM on May 9, 2008

regicide: I had quite a different impression. I watched the film last night and found that they worked quite well as a team and there was a good balance between "oh, this guy is drunk and violent, so the cops are taking over" and "I think we can talk him down, so let's send the nurse in to calm things down". They were talking about how many cops (and the general public) don't have much understanding of mental health issues and therefore aren't very sympathetic and tend to react with fear or aggression, but after interacting with the mental health nurse and learning more about the situation, they became much more understanding and adaptable. Any program that gives context and has cops de-escalating instead of reaching for their gun is a step in the right direction, I suspect.

Turtles: I have heard from several agencies like the Hassle Free Clinic that St. Mike's is the place to go if you have accidental exposure to HIV. They have nothing but good stuff to say about the place, so I suspect it is still as good and intense as you were told.
posted by heatherann at 6:02 PM on May 9, 2008

St. Mike's website. It's still an important teaching and research hospital.
posted by zarah at 6:29 PM on May 9, 2008

Great post.

I caught this on CBC Newsworld and it was fantastic.
posted by dr. moot at 6:31 PM on May 9, 2008

Sounds like a great program.

If it takes off Law and Order could have yet another franchise.
posted by orange swan at 7:05 PM on May 9, 2008

Fantastic Flash presentation. Reminds me of CBC Radio 3 in its heyday.
posted by anthill at 10:33 PM on May 9, 2008

There's an article about this in today's Toronto Star.
posted by ManInSuit at 3:31 PM on May 10, 2008

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