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RPACT assisting Sylvan Lake RCMP

Officer and therapist work together for mental health calls
An RCMP officer and a mental health therapist work together to provide support. (Photo by Michaela Ludwig)

Mental health calls for service are something the RCMP deals with often. But the addition of Regional Police and Crisis Teams (RPACT) means these calls can be handled with the appropriate supports.

Sylvan Lake’s RCMP officers have had access to RPACT since late spring. The team is based in the Rocky Mountain House detachment and works with RCMP officers in Rocky Mountain House, Blackfalds, Innisfail, Rimbey and Drayton Valley, in addition to Sylvan Lake.

RPACT consists of an RCMP officer and a mental health therapist from Alberta Health Services (AHS). For Sylvan Lake and the surrounding area, there is only one unit available and the officer and the therapist are always the same.

“We’ve had an increase in mental health calls for service,” said Sylvan Lake RCMP Staff Sgt. Christopher Peden. “These can range from people in moments of psychosis to break downs due to physical or mental needs. There are all sorts of reasons why we have mental health crises.”

Peden said often the RCMP are called at the height of someone’s mental health crisis. If the need is immediate, the RCMP officers can bring RPACT in. Otherwise, officers forward the person’s information over to RPACT, who follow up later. According to an RCMP media release in July, RPACT assess clients and conduct community interventions when possible, aiming to connect clients with community resources and divert service delivery from hospital emergency departments when appropriate.

“If we attend and we realize this isn’t a situation where someone needs to go to the hospital right now, the therapist and the member will be able to proactively provide referrals or support to these individuals,” explained Peden. The team will do check ins to see how the person is doing and the therapist can access health records to find out if someone is currently receiving treatment or if they’ve sought help for mental health concerns in the past.

“By having RPACT as the consistent point of contact, it minimizes calls for service,” said Peden. “We’ve had occasions where people will call looking for that team specifically. So it helps to put that individual in contact with the appropriate resource.”

According to the press release, the Alberta RCMP have created a phased implementation plan that will have RPACT available to all Alberta RCMP detachments over the next three years. RPACT began in Edmonton in 2011 and expanded to include teams in Red Deer, Grande Prairie and Airdrie.

The Canadian Mental Health Association states that, in any given year, one in five people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness. In 2020, there were over 20,000 files with Alberta RCMP related to the Mental Health Act.

“It was a much-needed resource,” Peden said of RPACT. “I’m glad it was able to come together and have AHS and the RCMP work together to provide that service to the Alberta public. I think the long-term benefits will continue to be seen.”