New Initiative Aims to Steer Mentally Ill Petty Crime Suspects Out of Justice System

Tuesday, May 18, 2010
CBC news

Police in Calgary are teaming up with Alberta Health Services to provide treatment instead of jail for people with mental health and addiction issues
who have been accused of petty crimes.

Under a three-year, $2.4-million pilot project, officers will team-up with mental health workers to help people in crisis who may have come into
contact with police because of petty crimes.

“Our goal is to reach out to folks with mental illness or addictions, who are in most cases homeless, and may come to our attention after committing a
minor, non-violent crime, or as the victim of a crime,” said Calgary Police
Chief Rick Hanson.

The Sheldon M. Chumir Centre will be the headquarters for a new joint program by Calgary police and the province to help mentally ill and addicted
people who have run-ins with the law. (CBC)”We want to have something in our
toolkit to work with this vulnerable population, and get them linked up with
agencies who can give them the help they need. They will still be held accountable to the law, however the main focus will be on finding them the
appropriate help and alternative sentencing will be considered.”

The Police And Crisis Teams – or PACT – will be called out to assist when street officers have determined a person could benefit from their
assistance, officials said in a release.

PACT will be stationed at the Sheldon M. Chumir Centre at the corner of 12th Avenue and Fourth Street S.W. Clients will have access to physicians and
specialists at the 24-hour medical treatment facility if needed. The project
is funded by the government of Alberta’s Safe Communities Initiative.

“Research indicates that by reaching out to this vulnerable population, we can reduce the incarceration and recidivism of people with mental illness by
linking them to mental health services and supports,” said Valerie Weibe, an
executive director of mental health and addictions for Alberta Health

“By providing early intervention for these individuals, we are more likely to see successful health outcomes.”

In March, Hanson said the force is working on several projects designed to steer people with mental health and addiction problems into treatment rather
than sending them to prison – a place he said they do not belong.

Reproduced from