County explores new approach to mental health appeals


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Local mental health crisis situations may soon be handled differently.

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Council unanimously supported Ward Council 4. Bill Tonita’s motion on Tuesday, March 22 that called on the administration to create a report regarding options and recommendations for developing a crisis response approach for appeals. Mental Health in Strathcona County.

“For the past two or three years, it’s something I’ve thought about a lot,” said Tonita. “More often than not, when someone is in distress or a loved one is in distress, the response is to call 911, which triggers a police or EMS response. My concern is that both of these options are far too restrictive for people with mental illness in our community. My biggest concern is that when people are struggling with mental illness, they need to have a number they can call or have a support system they can call on in the community that helps them navigate the waters of the entire mental health crisis. ”

Over the past year, 632 mental health calls have been recorded by local police.

“If you stop and think about it, someone who is in distress and has a mental health issue, the police are not necessarily the first point of contact that person would like to see. In fact, it could trigger all sorts of other reactions that someone we saw could be detrimental to both our (RCMP) members and those involved,” Tonita added.

Red Deer and Airdrie are the only two municipalities in Alberta that take a different approach to mental health appeals. Red Deer’s pilot program, which diverted mental health calls from police and emergency medical services as non-emergency, non-criminal events to nurses and addiction specialists, has been made permanent more early this year. With calls going to 211 Alberta, that city’s social diversion team handles an average of 170 calls each month. Many calls from Red Deer relate to substance abuse, while the majority of calls from Airdrie focus on youth.

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“Over the past two years, in my personal life alone, I have dealt with a loved one who had a mental health issue. I can’t think of a better program in this community,” Ward 2 Coun. Dave Anderson said in support. “On several occasions, we had to call on the RCMP and different programs to help us. In many of these situations, having access to something like you suggest would not only de-escalate the situation, but would also likely have moved the ground a little faster for us.

The report is expected to be returned to council for further discussion by the end of July.

The original notice of motion called for the report to come back to the board in the third quarter of this year, but Tonita amended it this summer, so that if this item has operational impacts, it could be included in the proposed discussions on the municipal budget 2023. .

This proposal could work alongside the Violence, Injury and Suicide Prevention Protocol – a document that has been signed by the County, Strathcona County RCMP, Elk Island Public and Catholic School Divisions, Alberta Health, Alberta Children’s Services and 10 other organizations last week to improve community safety and well-being.

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