Rising mental health crisis calls in Red Deer have sparked plans to increase the city’s two PACT teams to four.
“It’s a crisis. We have a mental health crisis” in the community, said Red Deer RCMP Supt. Holly Glassford while presenting a quarterly report to city council on Monday.
Escalating mental health issues are not just a Red Deer problem — Glassford added the same kind of increases are being seen right across the country, likely due to complex societal reasons.
Red Deer has seen a 24 per cent rise in mental health-related calls since the first Police and Crisis Team (PACT) was started five years ago, and a seven per cent increase from 2022. Glassford believes the city needs more round-the-clock crisis coverage.
The current two crisis team, consisting of a psychiatric nurse and a police officer, respond primarily during the day, Monday to Friday. The teams cannot stretch to work overnight or on weekends.
The Red Deer Primary Care Network and RCMP are, therefore, working to create two more PACT teams to bring the total to four.
Glassford told council that the Primary Care Network is trying to hire two more psychiatric nurses. She plans to re-assign two police officers to the new teams. This could require additional funding, so she told council more will be known before the next budget deliberations.
She hopes the two new crisis teams up will be running later this year, but it will depend on when the nurses can be hired.
Meanwhile, Red Deer RCMP plan to enhance police response and visibility is by conducting patrols throughout Red Deer’s extensive trail network.
“Throughout the warmer months and into the fall, Red Deerians will find Red Deer RCMP officers patrolling trails throughout the city via foot, bicycle, Segway and ATV to enhance the feelings of safety as well as to proactively identify issues,” said Supt. Holly Glassford, Red Deer RCMP.
She revealed some positive news in her report: most crimes, especially property crimes, are going down due to police pinpointing habitual offenders and areas where crime is known to occur. Statistics show property crime decreased 23 per cent in Red Deer over the same three months of 2023, with theft of motor vehicle down 51 per cent.
Traffic enforcement projects resulted in hundreds of violations and the issuing of tickets for impaired driving. Community Peace Officers and the RCMP’s Traffic Section have also been conducting noise patrols, and all of the tickets issued were upheld in Traffic Court. The City has since seen a noticeable drop in complaints.
By working with community partners, the Youth and Community Action Team redirected 22 per cent of youth facing criminal charges away from the criminal justice system towards diversionary programs offered by community organizations.
Glassford thanked the community for taking steps to protect their property and continuing to report suspicious activity.