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Taking Appropriate Action to Provide Safety For All

As the former Chair of the Winnipeg Police Board I have advocated for innovative policing in our community. I have spoken about how busy the police service members are attending to calls for service that call for a mental health approach, not law enforcement.

That is why I was extremely happy to support our government and Mental Health and Community Wellness Minister Janice Morley-Lecomte Friday to announce additional funding of $414,000 to expand the Alternative Response to Citizens in Crisis (ARCC) initiative that provides on-site support to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis in Winnipeg.

“Alternative Response to Citizens in Crisis is a partnership between the Winnipeg Police Service and Shared Health that provides a compassionate approach to crisis response while increasing access to appropriate mental health supports and services,” said Morley-Lecomte. “We are pleased to expand this program, which will ensure crucial assistance is available to more individuals where and when they need it.”

ARCC began as a pilot project in 2021 between the Winnipeg Police Service and Shared Health’s Crisis Response Centre at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg, pairing clinicians with plainclothes police officers who are dispatched to non-criminal, non-emergent crisis situations to better support the needs of those experiencing a mental health crisis. Developed in response to an increase in mental health-related police calls, ARCC has since evolved to include supports for individuals calling the Crisis Response Centre’s crisis line when a police response may otherwise be required.

“Traditional law enforcement responses to mental health crisis calls can be traumatic and can result in unnecessary and involuntary presentations to emergency departments,” said Morley-Lecomte. “This adds to patient volumes and ties up critical police and health resources.”

The Manitoba government’s new funding commitment through Shared Health will support the program’s transition from the successful pilot project to an ongoing mental health intervention response, the minister said, adding that the funding will also be used to expand ARCC programming to seven days a week from five days a week.

“The creation of a more collaborative model between clinicians and police is resulting in an improved experience and improved outcomes for individuals experiencing mental health-related distress, which serves to both reduce pressure on our emergency departments and free up police officers to respond to other calls,” said Erika Hunzinger, manager, Crisis Response Centre. “We are deeply appreciative of the opportunity to expand this program and provide care and support to more people in the community instead of in an emergency department.”

During the pilot period, ARCC engaged in 882 police events involving 530 individuals, providing crisis response and/or preventative response to those in need. Some notable findings from the pilot project review included:

82 per cent of engagements were able to be resolved by ARCC intervention alone;

91 per cent of clients served primarily by ARCC remained in the community after receiving on-site mental health support, rather than being transferred to emergency departments; and

the number of patients brought to emergency departments by police for a mental health assessment was reduced by 29 per cent.

“Over the course of the pilot project, it became clear why agencies across the globe have taken a similar approach,” said Insp. Helen Peters, Winnipeg Police Service. “Experiencing the stories unfold and seeing the data confirms what we hoped to be true—a collaborative multi-agency approach not only works, it saves lives.”

ARCC responds to the VIRGO report’s recommendations to improve access to and co-ordination of Manitoba’s mental health services, the minister said, noting it also aligns with strategic priorities set out in A Pathway to Mental Health and Community Wellness: A Roadmap for Manitoba , a five-year Manitoba government plan for improving wellness, mental health, substance use and addictions services and programs.

The initiative contributes to the Manitoba government’s commitment to develop a provincially co-ordinated action plan for suicide prevention as outlined in the 2022 speech from the throne and Budget 2023. The action plan is in development through engagement with stakeholders in suicide prevention. The minister noted that in addition to ARCC, several early actions have been identified and will receive provincial funding to help prevent suicide in Manitoba.


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