OTTAWA -- Ottawa police are sending psychiatrists to tag along with officers responding to mental health-related calls in the city's downtown core.

The pilot project was quietly launched last Monday and sees University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Hospital doctors going out to mental health calls with police three afternoons a week.

The doctors can access a person's medical history to make spot assessments and decide whether someone should be detained or given follow-up assistance.

Police estimate that one out of every 20 dispatches or public encounters involves people with mental health issues.

The initiative was announced today and builds on a partnership between police and the hospital's mobile crisis team which began in 2004.

The hospital has given more than 90 front-line officers training in handling mental health issues since last year.

"This approach in dealing with some mental health calls is something that we see can be a huge benefit to people experiencing mental health issues," Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau said in a statement.