Specialized approach to mental health, addiction calls paying dividends: Lethbridge police

A collaborative effort involving the Lethbridge Police Service and Alberta Health Services is altering how police approach calls involving addiction or mental health concerns.

The Police and Crisis Team (PACT) program was launched in 2018 with a single dedicated LPS constable being paired with an AHS mental health therapist. A second PACT unit was added in the summer of 2021.

According to LPS officials, the PACT members connect high risk and chronic clients with the proper support services, at times in hospitals, while allowing frontline officers to focus their time on other calls.

Requests for PACT involvement in responses have increased each month since the second team was added in August 2021.

The LPS says the PACT units intervened in a total of 215 files from November 2021 through February of this year, a stark jump compared to the 64 files the initial PACT unit assisted with from November 2020 through February 2021.

“With the addition of a second team we are now able to offer follow up and bridge therapy to clients until other mental health services and connections can be made,” said LPS Const. Derek Williams, one of the two constables dedicated to the program, in a statement. “Prior to PACT, frontline patrol officers were assigned all mental health calls, which would often tie them up for hours of a shift.”

In addition to the PACT units, the LPS has trained its members on brain development and the impact of stress and will be launching an assessment tool in the coming weeks that will assist officers in determining whether someone should be transported to a designated facility for evaluation.

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