Authorities are coming together in hopes to direct those in crisis situations away from jail and emergency rooms.
PACT stands for Police and Crisis Team. The program, announced last Friday by the SHA, RCMP and government officials, is to send mental health professionals, along with police, to respond to certain calls.
The goal, according to SHA representatives, is to create “a mobile team that can de-escalate mental health crisis situations.’
“We know that similar programs have helped reduced pressure on hospital emergency departments,” Vice-President Integrated Northern Health Andrew McLetchie said, adding “these programs can help respond to those people when they’re most in need of it.’
Logistically, Battlefords RCMP Sgt. (and PACT co-ordinator) Pernell St. Pierre said, police would attend and investigate a call. If a case is deemed to involve a mental health crisis, a PACT-team member would be called.
“They’ll sit with that person, they’ll determine what they’re going to do with that person, whether they’ll go to the emergency room, or in case it’s criminal, maybe arrest,” St. Pierre said. But if the circumstances aren’t appropriate for either, St. Pierre said the PACT-team members could make referrals to a mental health unit.
For those in need, a PACT-team member could have someone skip the step of having to wait in an emergency room, which are often crowded.
Examples of cases in which a PACT-team member would be called, St. Pierre said, would be a suicide threat or someone in a domestic violence situation who’s unable to break the cycle.
Two PACT-team members are to work with Battlefords RCMP.
Johann Engelke, of the Battlefords Mental Health Centre, said the PACT-team members are qualified due to their backgrounds in addictions and social work.
“We have many people who’re struggling with mental health and addiction problems, that end up in the criminal justice process, that could well be served in other areas rather than tying up justice,” Staff/Sgt. Darcy Woolfitt said.
North Battleford Mayor Ryan Bater thanked MLA Herb Cox and the provincial government.
Cox said PACT in Saskatoon saved 287 visits to the emergency room, and 289 trips to the emergency room in Regina.
According to an SHA release, the Government of Saskatchewan is investing $980,000 in 2018-19 for new PACT programs.