Police services from two different countries are comparing their approaches to mental health and policing.
This week, a police service from the United Kingdom was in Saskatoon for a health conference and met with the city’s police service to learn about their Police and Crisis Team (PACT).
PACT involves police officers and crisis workers teaming up to prevent people with mental health issues from being unnecessarily jailed or hospitalized. The program has been diverting around five arrests a month since its inception last year, according to Insp. Mitch Yuzdepski with the SPS.
He said while the U.K. model helps people over the phone, PACT responds to mental health emergencies in person.
“Our U.K. friends called ours really the gold standard of the model, when you can have that face-to-face.”
Yuzdepski said the Devon and Cornwall Police Service communicates by phone instead of in person because it has to cover a large rural area. That means when someone is in crisis, police call a control room where a nurse on duty gives them advice.
“I think both models are kind of a real-time response to real-time crisis,” he said.
In Saskatoon, Yuzdepski said about 40 per cent of their mental health crisis calls involve “suicidal ideations” and many were successfully referred to community supports like helping a client find appropriate housing.
“Certainly we’ve saved lives. I don’t know if I could accurately quantify it but certainly we’ve prevented some suicides.”