The Red Deer RCMP and Red Deer Primary Care Network hope to see their successful pilot project that handles calls involving people with mental illness permanently continued, expanded and eventually taken over by Alberta Health Services.
Sloane Bravener, a full-time registered psychiatric nurse, and RCMP Const. Candice Djukic form the Police and Crisis Team (PACT), which began last December.
They work together five days a week as a specialized secondary response unit to help those with mental health problems. Police tend to be the first call when people with a mental illness are in a crisis and then they all too often end up in hospital’s emergency rooms. PACT aims to be an efficient alternate option.
And so far it has been an overwhelming success, said RCMP Insp. Lawrence Aimoe, operations officer with the detachment.
“The team is saving the hospital a lot of time because PACT can professionally assess a case before even setting foot in the ER room,” said Aimoe at a media launch at the downtown RCMP office on Wednesday.
Before PACT, RCMP would have to arrest people under a section of the Mental Health Act as a way to bring them to a doctor to be assessed.
“The old way, they would sit there sometimes for three to five hours waiting for a ER doctor and then wait again for a psychiatrist whenever one was available. And the our officers would be sitting there too.”
Not everyone needs to go to jail, said Aimoe. “We need to have other options to deal with people who are not well and this provides us with that.”
According to Bravener, about 75 per cent of all cases PACT has dealt with over the past six months have been diverted away from the hospital after assessment and redirected to other community venues and agencies such as the Canadian Mental Health Association and Safe Harbour, to name a few.
Unofficially, there are probably three to five calls concerning mental health a day, said Djukic.
PACT is not a Band-Aid solution, added Bravener.
The pilot project is currently being evaluated for more official findings and is scheduled to run until March 31, 2013.
Once the RCMP and the Primary Care Network have more raw data collected, they hope to secure Alberta Heath Services and the City of Red Deer’s interest in running the program. Alberta Health Services runs similar successful PACT teams in Edmonton and Calgary.
Aimoe said they hope to have additional members added to PACT by next year.
“PACT is a critical piece to our service delivery model,” said RCMP Supt. Warren Dosko. “It provides a more enhanced service for the specific needs for some of our clients and that helps address other needs of the community as well. It’s about being a more socially responsible police organization.”