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Edmonton Police Service and Alberta Health Services working together

07-Sep-2021

What we learned from our Facebook Live with the Police and Crisis Response Team.

The EPS hosted a Facebook Live focusing on the Police and Crisis Response Team known as PACT. Acting Sgt. Andrew Frey of PACT and psychologist Tanya Anderson of Alberta Health Services sat down to answer viewer questions about the team and the important role they play in responding to dynamic mental health calls throughout the city. 

What is PACT?

Founded in 2004, PACT is an Edmonton Police Service partnership with Alberta Health Services' Access 24/7. EPS PACT constables are paired with mental health professionals from AHS Access 24/7, Addiction and Mental Health. The mental health professional and the police officer work together to respond to those who are experiencing a mental health crisis. The goal is to focus on the mental health of individuals and facilitate connections to supports in the community to minimize the involvement of emergency services and the legal system.

"PACT is a partnership. We started back in 2004 when we realized that the mental health response teams were doing similar things to what police were doing and we were duplicating some of that work with individuals. It was a natural partnership to come together," said Anderson. 

Why is pairing a police officer and a mental health professional important?

"Really when we're going out to see people in crisis, they're dealing with multiple levels of concerns. By having the resources of both a mental health professional and a police officer, we're able to look at the person as a whole," said Anderson.

Mental health is complex and each individual's needs are different so the combination of the two allows for the right response at the right time.

A police officer can look at safety and legality, and a mental health professional can look at stabilization services like therapy and basic needs.

"Many times, when people are in a crisis, they may not be completely in touch with reality. They may think that people are following them. They may be carrying weapons to protect themselves," said Anderson. "Because of the mindset they're in, it may not be safe for me, from a mental health purpose, to walk in unbeknownst to all the potential risks. So, having that partnership with someone who is an expert in safety is essential to get someone like me to where I need to be to provide that help for that person," explained Anderson.

What types of training or courses do PACT members receive compared to patrol members?
While all members of EPS receive training around de-escalation, cultural sensitivity training and suicide prevention, PACT members take on even more coursework due to their specialization. They learn about things like trauma-informed care and harm reduction on an enhanced level.

"Oftentimes, when we take training in PACT, we look at and give feedback on the courses to see if they will be beneficial to patrol and general membership," said Frey. 

Anderson and other mental health professionals also provide curriculum and training for new EPS recruits to better prepare them for what they will see on the streets.

Do you think the program has made a difference?

With the onset of the pandemic, Frey has seen an increase in calls relating to PACT. In the last two and a half years alone, the team has grown from four members to eight. Frey believes they are making a difference.

"We see about 10 calls to PACT per shift. We see and hear about the value of a program from family members and patrol members and also from the health care system when we do come into hospital. There is a lot of change and a lot of value in the work that we can accomplish," said Frey.

You can watch the full live broadcast below or visit edmontonpolice.ca to learn more about the team—including links for additional mental health supports. And, be sure to follow the EPS on our social media channels for more live broadcasts in the future.