The Government of Alberta announced on Friday that they would be providing millions in additional support for operational and capital improvements at the Calgary Police Service and Alpha House to address addictions and social disorder in Calgary.
The province has promised $5.76 million, consisting of $1.8 million for crisis workers at Calgary’s 911 dispatch centre, $2.96 million for the Calgary Police Service for improvements for detainees getting support at the arrest processing unit, and $1 million to expand HELP (formerly DOAP) teams in the downtown and the Beltline.
The funding is for a three-year period.
“Right now, police are serving on the frontlines of the addiction crisis. They’re frequently called to respond to public safety concerns related to mental health and addiction,” said Minister for Mental Health and Addiction Nicholas Milliken.
“The individuals involved in these calls might not require emergency services, but many of them need access to medical care, addiction and mental health support and other social services. Our new partnership with the Calgary police service, we’ll make sure that the help they need is available.”
The funding comes from $58 million budgeted for the Calgary Public Safety and Community Response Task Force.
“Everyone here is aware of the high level of social disorder we were experiencing across the city, and this funding is another step to curb negative behaviours in public spaces,” said CPS Deputy Chief Katie McLellan
Changes coming to Arrest Processing Unit, 911 Call Centre
Among the changes to the Calgary Police’s Arrest Processing Unit are the addition of on-site health care practitioners and paramedics, and peace officers for transportation. The cost of those staffing additions are expected to be $2.2 million.
The unit will also be receiving $775,000 in capital funding for facility upgrades that will turn eight of the 60 cells into space for detainees to have wrap-around case management for addiction support.
“They will be refurbished to be more culturally appropriate and they’ll be more supportive,” said Deputy Chief McLellan.
“We’re working with our partners to have the conversations as to what exactly is best suited for all the individuals in cells.”
Additional funding for Calgary’s 911 Call Centre would be used to provide enhanced support for mental health and addiction calls.
“The reality is too many Calgarians end up in police custody because they simply don’t have anywhere else to turn,” said Councillor Sonya Sharp, who also serves on the safety task force.
“That’s why it’s crucial that we offer compassion, care and support to those that need it most. Especially in their moments of crisis.”
HELP teams, formerly DOAP, being added to Beltline
Speaking to the funding announcement, Alpha House Executive Director Kathy Christiansen said that money would be used to expand 24 hour support of outreach teams to the Beltline.
“The new funding will enable us to expand our outreach team to the Beltline community, with the addition of a second team who will extend our coverage in this area from midnight to 8 a.m,” she said.
“This will ensure a more comprehensive response to individuals needing support, particularly overnight, where we are seeing a growing need for safe transportation.”
The province recently renamed the Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) to the Human-centered Engagement and Liaison Partnership (HELP) to have standardized naming across Alberta for similar outreach programs. The DOAP teams have been in place since 2005 in Calgary.
Christiansen said that a previous partnership between CPS and Alpha House on the 211 call pilot was able to divert over 250 calls a month away from emergency services.
“This is an example of the impact we can have when we work together as we look forward to collaboratively implementing new initiatives and expanding existing resources with new funding,” she said.
She said that many of the issues that clients of Alpha House have faced, and continue to face, are the result of the pandemic and the toxic drug supply.
“We’re seeing tenfold in terms of people actually staying outside. During Covid, people moved outside of the shelter system we supported people to be safe where they were, and so now we’re dealing with a large number of people who are sleeping rough and living rough,” Christiansen said.