By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
RCMP data shows mental health calls are up in Lethbridge County.
Despite the increases to mental health related calls in Lethbridge County, Alberta Health Services (AHS) has not yet offered a timeline on when a mental health nurse position will be filled, as part of the Regional Police and Crisis Team (RPACT), a mobile response team comprised of a trained AHS mental health provider, and an RCMP officer to provide mental health supports to calls where mental health and mental illness are a factor.
In September 2022, Staff Sergeant of the Coaldale and Picture Butte RCMP detachments, Mike Numan, shared the news of the detachment’s involvement with the Regional Police and Crisis Team (RPACT), which was supposed to see RCMP officers responding to mental health calls in the South Zone alongside a registered AHS mental health nurse.
Within the County, mental health calls rose from 15 in Q3 in 2021, to 21 in Q3 of 2022.
“Those are attributed to dependencies on different drugs and people having a tough time with life and people reaching out, or not reaching out, and us being called out to deal with those types of offences,” said Numan during a delegation before Lethbridge County Council on March 2.
Numan noted there was also increases in criminal harassment charges in both Coaldale, Picture Butte and Lethbridge County generally, “resulting mostly from domestic type files that we investigate.”
According to AHS, the collaborative partnership (RPACT) between law enforcement and AHS staff is intended to, “divert individuals who are in crisis with mental illness and addiction issues from the justice system and hospital emergency departments,” and help connect people with supports and resources.
Numan told Lethbridge County Council, “unfortunately, we have our (RCMP) member in place but we are still waiting for the province to commit to their fulfillment of the nurse position.”
Although RCMP-reported data shows an increase in mental health related calls, representatives for AHS were not able to confirm a timeline to onboard staff for the RPACT initiative in the areas served by the Coaldale or Picture Butte detachments.