Watch above: New Saskatoon program aims to tackle mental issues head on
SASKATOON – Mental health patients living in Saskatoon are more likely to find the support and service they need with the launch of a new initiative.
The Police and Crisis Team (PACT) puts mental health professional Krista Townsend in the passenger seat of a police cruiser with Const. Jeff Nachtegaele.
“She’s my partner so we’re co-responding to calls, the two of us jointly go in,” said Nachtegaele.
The pair make up PACT. They’ve been responding to calls as a team since June 1. The initiative is meant to clear out full emergency waiting rooms.
Averaging five or more calls a day, the duo has dealt with one man several times who’s a chronic drug user. They say that interaction itself proves the new partnership is already working.
“In his situation, he didn’t end up in the hospital and he didn’t end up in jail,” Nachtegaele explained.
“We were able to find other avenues, get him back on his proper medication, get a hold of somebody to come look after him for the day.”
As an employee with Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Centre, Townsend previously helped patients through the phone when they called in to the centre.
This new partnership gives Townsend the link she’s been looking for with the safety and security of a police officer by her side.
“It has been really helpful, just having the ability to go out and help people in their homes,” said Townsend.
Annually approximately 8,000 people in the Saskatoon Health Region enter an emergency room suffering from a mental health issues according to Tracy Muggli, the Region’s mental health and addiction services director.
“We have great difficulty seeing so many people in our emergency department and sometimes the people who are coming be better served in a different location,” said Muggli.
PACT is dispatched to appropriate calls which originate through the Saskatoon Police Service or the Crisis Intervention Centre. The team will attempt to reroute mental health patients when possible.
Depending on the situation, they’ll be linked to temporary housing, counselling, or even something as simple as calling a family member to support the person in need.
The police service says there’s a similar program operating in Alberta which has seen great success, reducing unnecessary emergency room visits by as much as 80 per cent.
That program shows calls related to mental health issues mainly occur between 7 a.m. through to 1 a.m. By September, Saskatoon’s PACT will consist of two teams in order to cover those time frames.
In an effort to eliminate emergency department waits by the year 2017, the provincial government provided $250,000 needed by the Saskatoon Health Region to launch the initiative.