Medicine Hat Police respond to six mental health and addiction crisis calls in single day

Medicine Hat, Alberta – On July 20, 2020 members of the Medicine Hat Police Service (MHPS) responded to six different calls for service related to mental health and addictions crisis. Five of those calls resulted in persons being apprehended under the provisions of the mental health act and transported to a medical facility for evaluation.

All of the calls were successfully deescalated without injury to the subjects, the officers or members of the community.

Mental Health Police Calls
(File Photo) Mental Health Police Calls

The calls are summarized as follows:

Disturbance with violence where officers were able to diffuse the situation without incident and subject transported to medical facility.

Disturbed person with a knife brandished as a weapon

Call which required police to force entry to a residence where subject threatened self-harm with a knife. The matter was successfully diffused and the subject was transported to medical facility.

Subject with mental health issued related to drug addiction was actively causing a disturbance and property damage. Officers were threatened with a hypodermic needle but the situation was diffused without incident.

Subject with complex needs and addictions issues. This subject was dealt with, without the need for arrest and was provided with community supports. No weapons involved.

Local medical facility requested police attendance to diffuse a crisis situation on site.

On average the MHPS receives 1,200 calls for service per year related to mental illness or addictions concerns, with approximately 1/3 of those resulting in apprehensions under the provisions of the Mental Health Act. Recently there has been a great deal of discussion provincially and nationally regarding police response to mental health calls, exploring a different approach to responding to individuals in crisis. Our Service is open to that dialogue as the root issues continue to worsen and we are aware that we cannot solve these issues without collaboration and partnership with our public health partners. In the meanwhile our goal will be to remain committed to focusing on the safety of the person in crisis, the responding officers and our community. At the MHPS, officers receive training in; crisis communications and de-escalation, mental health, implicit biased training, and recognition of emotionally disturbed persons.

Since 2016, the MHPS, in partnership with Alberta Health Services (AHS), has paired a mental health clinician and a police officer with the purpose of identifying and diverting individuals with mental illness or addiction issues away from the justice system and toward the most appropriate community services and resources to stabilize them.

By having a mental health specialist review calls with police, clients immediately receive a mental health assessment, and the team determines the most appropriate course of action. Teams also provide assertive community outreach to the vulnerable homeless population by building a rapport with individuals and connecting them with appropriate community services. Since its inception the MHPS has noted a 50 percent reduction in suicides and attempted suicides and an 8 percent reduction in total mental health calls, while it is still too early to draw conclusions, the MHPS believes that integrated model for intervention is the key to success.

Medicine Hat Police Service

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