“The Heavy Users of Service program is an excellent example of an innovative and collaborative approach to supporting vulnerable persons by maximizing existing resources and achieving shared costs and operational efficiencies. Our hope with this new award is that others will be inspired to explore similar new opportunities to help improve the safety and well-being of residents in their own communities,” says Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Directeur Francis Lanouette, Co-Chair of the CACP Crime Prevention, Community Safety and Well-Being Committee.
Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee recently presented the award to Sgt. Lee Bieraugle and the Heavy Users of Service (HUoS) project team outside of EPS Headquarters.
“Here in Edmonton, between 80 and 92 percent of our calls for service are related to mental health, addictions, poverty and homelessness,” Chief McFee said. “The HUoS team is demonstrating 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 need. 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.”
HUoS was established in 2013 as a community collaboration, with EPS one of 16 stakeholder organizations representing the city’s emergency and social services agencies and organizations. The HUoS 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 inappropriately 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.