Saskatoon residents who are experiencing a mental health crisis in the community have been benefitting from the Police and Crisis Team (PACT) program since it was introduced in June 2014, the public was informed at an update event held January 28.

PACT was put in place to ensure someone in mental health crisis would receive help from the right person, who would then get them to the right care. The goal is to reduce arrests due to psychosocial issues, reduce unnecessary and inappropriate emergency department visits, strengthen partnerships of those serving at-risk individuals and enhance community safety through more effective crisis intervention.

Mike Stensrud

Saskatoon Regional Health Authority Chair Mike Stensrud speaks at the PACT event while other partners ( Tracy Muggli of Saskatoon Health Region, Rita Field of Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service and Inspector Mitch Yuzdepski of Saskatoon Police Service) look on.

“PACT is a great example of how the police, health, and a community based organization like Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service can work together to create positive outcomes for persons in a mental health crisis,” says Inspector Mitch Yuzdepski, Saskatoon Police Service. “It’s about responding to crises in real-time. This includes responding with a police officer and a mental-health-trained crisis worker working together in the same car.”

Through PACT, a member of Saskatoon Police Service with mental health training is partnered with a mental health professional from Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service. The team responds to calls when their expertise is needed. There are now two teams in place to respond to calls. Funding for the model is through Saskatoon Health Region Mental Health and Addiction Services (in collaboration with Emergency Department Wait Times and Patient Flow Initiative), and the Saskatoon Police Service in conjunction with the Ministries of Justice, Corrections and Policing.

From November 1, 2014 to October 31, 2015 PACT responded to 875 occurrences. As a result of the team being sent to handle these calls:

  • 97 people did not need to go to the emergency department,
  • of the 192 individuals who requested help with suicide risk, 94 were helped in the community with appropriate referrals and support,
  • Saskatoon police officers were kept from responding to 900 calls that didn’t involve a criminal offence,
  • 31 people were kept out of the court system, resulting in a cost savings for police and justice system of a minimum of $57,164,
  • there has been at least $198,898 in cost avoidance to Saskatoon Health Region, and
  • other cost avoidance includes EMS services and the general social value of managing risk in the community

“We knew there was a need to change how these calls were handled,” says Tracy Muggli, Director of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Saskatoon Health Region. “Having an individual in a mental health crisis end up in a police cell or waiting in a hospital emergency department wasn’t addressing the real problem that person was dealing with. The PACT response ensures a better outcome for these individuals.”

“We are confident that the addition of PACT has helped reduce stigma and barriers related to mental health and addictions issues in our community,” says Rita Field, Executive Director, Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service. “The numbers and the stories tell us that this enhanced partnership with the Saskatoon Police Service and the Health Region has provided informed response at the critical time of need with caring, safer and more long lasting results.”