ST. PAUL - Plans to expand Alberta's Regional Police and Crisis Teams (RPACT) are moving forward, and one team will be located within the Lakeland area.
The teams are part of the RCMP's efforts to better support Albertans experiencing mental health crises and are made possible through a partnership with Alberta Health Services (AHS). One of those teams will soon be located in St. Paul.
"Recognizing the importance of providing appropriate and timely care, RPACT provides a crisis response team that is able to intervene, assess, and work to stabilize individuals in the community," according to information from RCMP.
The RPACT team is made up of an RCMP officer and a mental health therapist from AHS, who respond together to mental health calls in the community.
Town of St. Paul Mayor Maureen Miller says she found out a team would be coming to St. Paul about three months ago. But, work has been taking place much longer than that. Last summer, when Premier Jason Kenney visited the area, Miller and her fellow council members made sure to emphasize how important taking action on these mental health calls would be for the area.
Talks with local RCMP were also instrumental in bringing the RPACT to St. Paul. While the team will be stationed out of St. Paul, it will serve a wide area.
Challenges seen in the local emergency department at the St. Paul hospital have been experienced by police and AHS, says Miller. Based on the success other RPACT teams have had in other areas of the province, Miller believes St. Paul fits a similar profile and will no doubt benefit from the team.
In the end, all parties involved simply want to do better, says Miller. She credits S/Sgt. Corey Blize for taking action, putting statistics together and sending in a proposal to AHS.
“I’m extremely thankful and grateful," says Miller. She explains that the team will be able to triage patients in their homes, rather than the emergency department, when a mental health call comes in. Services can be deployed quickly, and it is an overall better experience, from what has been reported in other communities with RPACTs.
“We have to put the patient first," says Miller, adding, “Everybody is a win on this.”
"The combination of law enforcement resources paired with mental health expertise ensures that an appropriate response is delivered, while ensuring public safety," according to RCMP.
Last year, there were over 20,000 files in Alberta RCMP jurisdiction related to the Mental Health Act. The Alberta RCMP have created a phased implementation plan that will have RPACTs available to all Alberta RCMP detachments over the coming three years. RPACT began operating in the Edmonton area in 2011 and has grown to include teams in Red Deer, Grande Prairie, and Airdrie.
"RPACT assesses clients and conducts community interventions when possible, aiming to connect clients with community resources and divert service delivery from hospital emergency departments when appropriate. Through a coordinated response to mental health situations in the community, RPACT provides timely interventions and reduces the burden on the health care system," according to information from RCMP.
While deploying the first RPACT in St. Paul is still underway, Miller says she already believes there will be a need for a second team.
“I hope to see a second RPACT team," she says, adding, she feels it is a much-needed service for the whole region. She notes that establishing a team is just one step of an overall goal to get more services around mental health in the community.
“This is just one of many services.”
Efforts to contact AHS for more information on the RPACT in St. Paul were unsuccessful as of publication of this article.