Calgary police, 911, 211 team up to divert nearly 250 calls in four months

Co-location has helped integrate the teams to provide the supports vulnerable Calgarians need

Calgary Police Service building
The Calgary Police Service. LWC FILE PHOTO

More than 240 non-urgent calls to Calgary 911 have been diverted from police and into appropriate social assistance over the past four months.

In February, Calgary 911 call takers began looking for more opportunities to direct calls to Distress Centre Calgary (211). This included calls for housing supports, mental health and addiction and child custody dispute questions.

Since then, 248 calls have been diverted from police resources.

The Calgary police reallocated more than $8 million in 2021 from its annual budget to help fund different ways to divert calls from the core policing response.

“We made a commitment in June of 2021 that we would find a better and more appropriate way to respond to the needs of Calgarians in crisis. What this pilot project is telling us is that by partnering with Calgary 911 and 211 Distress Centre, we are able to ensure people are being supported in the way they need it the most,” said CPS Chief Constable Mark Neufeld, in a prepared release.

“With only a few months of data to study, we know this is making a difference and we will continue to move forward with our call-diversion efforts.”

The greatest number of diverted calls happen Monday to Thursday and last 17.5 minutes per transfer the data shows. Roughly 75 per cent of diverted calls came from people aged 25 to 54, and were mostly mental health assessments, counselling requests and shelter inquiries.

Key partnerships

One caller was experiencing a mental health and addiction issue and was depressed and felt he had no support. That person was referred to the Mobile Response Team that provided urgent care in crisis situations.

Another call helped a senior living in Calgary Housing because the building he was living in was closing. He was moved to another location and connected with appropriate resources.

“Partnerships like this are key to ensuring that Calgarians are connected with the right supports, at the right time, for the right outcomes when they need them the most,” said Robyn Romano, Chief Executive Officer of Distress Centre Calgary, in a prepared release.

“This pilot has demonstrated initial results and we are excited to continuing working together in transforming crisis response in our city.”  

Part of the initiative has Calgary 911 and 211 working in the same shared space.

“Our team has co-located the community-based crisis and systems navigation services provided by 211 staff directly into the City of Calgary’s 911 Operations Centre,” said Glenda Sahlen, Acting Commander, Calgary 911.

“Through an integrated cross-agency change management effort, our goal is to provide an enhanced response to citizens in, ensuring Calgarians get the right support in the right place at the right time.”

If you need help, you can contact Distress Centre Calgary at 211.

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