“The HUoS team continues to demonstrate the value of working with community partners to identify and support those who are better served by being directed to the services they need to address the ‘root causes’ of their victimization, rather than into a justice system that is not equipped to offer the kind of rehabilitation these individuals require,” says EPS Chief Dale McFee.
“The HUoS team is improving lives and helping to build a stronger community, and I congratulate our members and our community colleagues on this well-deserved honour.”
The HUoS program was established in 2013 as a community collaboration between EPS 15 other stakeholder organizations representing the city’s emergency and social service agencies. The program aligns with the EPS Violence Reduction Strategy and is a response to highly vulnerable community members who are most susceptible to victimization and a high utilization of resources. These individuals are frequent users of health, justice and social services and at times use these services incorrectly, such as visiting an emergency room in hope of finding shelter, food, or securing medications to support addictions.
Often, these same individuals encounter law enforcement either as victim or offender, through incidents ranging from minor social disorder to more serious criminal matters. As a result, EPS is often a first contact and a referral partner into the HUoS program.
To date, more than 41 at-risk Edmontonians have participated, accessing supports to address medical, addiction, mental health, housing, and immediate needs such as food and clothing. Assistance is also provided to assist clients in applying to financial support programs and to deal with justice-related issues such as unpaid fines, which could be a barrier to accessing supports.
This is the second time the program has been honoured with HUoS having received the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police (AACP) Outstanding Service Award in 2018. Heavy Users is one of 35 other programs and police units that now fall under the EPS Community Safety and Well-being Bureau. The Bureau was created out of a re-alignment of police resources in 2019 with the goal of increasing the service’s focus on community safety and well-being from the perspective of social response and social-environmental factors, explains EPS Deputy Chief David Veitch, who is responsible for the bureau.
“Our people-based approach, which focuses on connecting clients to services, supports and treatment, will result in a reduction in calls for service, crime, disorder and harm, and improve the quality of life of those we connect to services over time,” says DC Veitch, who also oversaw the launch of HUoS back in 2013.
“CSWB’s approach to social need response is based on innovative and/or best practice social science research and technology applications developed within the EPS and/or used by other agencies across the world,” he says. “We now have the capability to identify persons we deal with most often for crime, and can also look at the dimensions of crime, from high frequency with violent or property crime and harm, weapon offences, to those we deal with most often for social disorder events to those we have dealt with as victims who may be struggling with mental health issues.”
“EPS has been on the right track for several years now. It’s rewarding work for all of the EPS members involved in CSWB, because we’re already seeing some of the outcomes we’ve been striving to achieve. We believe we are evolving policing to a model that is more socially responsive to the unique conditions faced by our members and our community - the genesis of “Social Response Policing, and our partnering organizations deserve a lot of credit for embracing this vision as well.”
The EPS Heavy Users of Services program partners with 15 primary organizations who include:
Alberta Health Services – Continuing Care
Alberta Health Services - Edmonton Zone Emergency
Alberta Health Services – EMS
Alberta Health Services – Mental Health and Addictions
Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society
Boyle McCauley Health Services
Boyle Street Community Services
City of Edmonton – Housing and Homelessness
Edmonton Police Service (EPS)
George Spady Society
Government of Alberta – Community and Social Services
REACH Edmonton Council
In total, the EPS Heavy Users of Services program partners with more than 100 or so organizations to achieve life-altering outcomes for its clients.