Saskatoon police to fund 24/7 paramedic presence in detention unit

Click to play video: 'Detention cells to be staffed by paramedics around the clock after man’s death' Detention cells to be staffed by paramedics around the clock after man’s death
WATCH ABOVE: A recent death of a man in a police cell has sparked an immediate change. Ryan Kessler says paramedics will now staff the Saskatoon Police Service detention area every day and every night – Mar 17, 2016

SASKATOON – After a second daytime death in its detention unit in three years, the Saskatoon Police Service will see expanded hours for detention unit paramedics. Police Chief Clive Weighill brought the recommendation before the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners Thursday.

“We’re dealing lots of times with people with mental health and addictions issues. So we really, really don’t know what we’ve got on our hands,” Weighill said.

READ MORE: Death in Saskatoon police custody has family, experts wanting change

The police commissioners voted in favour of expanding hours for a paramedic presence 24 hours per day through the end of 2016 – a cost of $163,000 in the current police operating budget if implemented by May 1.

Starting in 2017, it would cost $245,000 annually to staff daytime paramedics, Weighill said.

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A 38-year-old man was found unresponsive in police custody Feb. 26, after he was seen running into oncoming traffic at 22nd Street & Avenue P. He was charged with breaching court conditions and for outstanding warrants.

He was found in his cell at 3:20 p.m. CT.

Currently, MD Ambulance paramedics are only staffed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

“We took a little closer look at it and it would seem that some days, there’s probably a three to four-hour window where we don’t have prisoners in, but you just never know,” Weighill said.

About $95,000 of the police operating budget is spent on paramedic staffing during the evenings and overnight. Without a grant from the Saskatoon Health Region, the contract would cost police $245,000 annually.

The board also recommended correspondence with the provincial government to consider paying for daytime paramedic service in 2017.

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