The Police and Crisis Team is adding two more members to assist people with mental illness connect to appropriate services.
“Red Deer (Primary Care Network) and RCMP felt very strongly that this a program that just can’t stop,” PCN executive director Lorna Milkovich said on Wednesday.
“Almost from the get-go, it was successful. People saw the need for it and also word spread about it quickly.”
The 15-month PACT pilot project, that partners a police officer with a psychiatric nurse, started in December 2011.
In March at the end of the pilot, police and the PCN hoped Alberta Health Services would take over the program. That didn’t happen so the RCMP and PCN will continue to fund the team.
“We actually realized we need a second team so we’re currently recruiting for a second psychiatric nurse and the police are finding a second member,” said Milkovich about the newest team expected to be at work in the fall.
The team will respond to police calls involving people with mental-health issues, assess them, and when appropriate divert them from the hospital’s emergency department to other community venues and agencies such as the Canadian Mental Health Association, Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing, Central Alberta Family Services, Parkland Youth Homes, and others.
In the first 15 months of the program, police received 1,500 mental health-related 911 calls. The lone PACT team responded to 30 per cent of the calls and worked with 400 clients.
Eighty-five per cent of PACT clients already had mental health diagnoses or identified issues. Fifty-seven per cent of clients were men.
Eleven per cent of clients were taken to hospital and 25 per cent were connected to other agencies.
Calls primarily dealt with people thinking about suicide, which was often related to substance abuse, depression and anxiety, and troublesome behaviour.
Problems often stemmed from domestic violence, homelessness, substance abuse and employment difficulties.
The cost to the RCMP and the PCN totalled $237,000 for 15 months. and for every dollar spent, it saved the criminal justice and health care systems $3.66 combined.
Milkovich said assessment of individuals by PACT meant only those who needed hospitalization were brought to emergency which saved the hospital money on assessments.
“Both the health system and community agencies identified that PACT really alleviated already taxed resources in the community.
“Even the hospital staff recognized that some people coming in repeatedly were getting help they needed through PACT,” said PCN program evaluator Donna Thompson.
Milkovich said the connections clients are making in the community are longer term and that’s important.
Red Deer City RCMP Insp. Lawrence Aimoe said PACT has some amazing ripple effects and is a value not only to the community, but also front-line police.
“Sometimes it’s just something as simple as needing food, or feeling destitute, and being able to connect them with the place to go to help them.”