Calgary Police Seek Community Partners for Crisis Response Teams

The pilot project will create a new type of emergency response for mental health crisis calls.

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Calgary Police is looking for community partners to help them change the way they respond to people in crisis.

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The service, along with the City of Calgary, are currently working together to launch a Mobile Crisis Response Teams pilot project to better respond to 911 calls where a police response is not appropriate. A call was sent out earlier this week requesting that local agencies work on the project.

Superintendent Asif Rashid said the teams grew out of both CPS and the city’s commitment to transform the response to calls like a person in a mental health crisis or interpersonal dispute calls.

“We have been engaging extensively with the communities. About 47 partners have been spoken to so far and have also been invited to comment and co-design this work with us,” said Rashid. “The research work and report have been validated by our community engagement team. We expressly trust the community as subject matter experts on what the citizens of Calgary want.”

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Rashid said work has already been done to change his response, including integrating 211 help desk workers into the 911 call center. The goal is to eventually have a fourth option for 911 callers when police response firefighters or emergency medical services is not appropriate.

“Is this a crisis response that is required, where there would be an alternative modality of community leadership that would be able to serve people experiencing a mental health crisis? Something more than a police response,” Rashid said.

The goal would be to have community response teams paired with officers during the pilot project, but eventually, officers would not join the response. The city currently has PACT teams where AHS nurses are paired with officers to respond to certain calls. Rashid said mobile crisis response teams would be different, as they would be entirely community-led.

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“This model was conceived with the expected outcome that it will provide better, coordinated and ongoing service to people in crisis using a trauma-informed lens,” Rashid said. “But it would also empower the police to not attend to causes that do not require emergency services.”

Social agencies in the city have now been asked to apply to partner in the project and submit a letter of intent. Calgary Neighborhoods Director Melanie Hulsker said in a press release this week that supporting people in an emotional or mental health crisis requires a coordinated effort from community organizations and government.

“This next step in transforming the response to the crisis provides an exciting opportunity to partner with community agencies to create hope and strengthen support for Calgarians,” Hulsker said.

Teams are expected to be sent out on calls in select pilot communities within Calgary this fall. The program will then be evaluated and could be implemented citywide.

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