REACH Edmonton

More than 170 people attended a March 15 community report back event that showcased the effect the 24/7 Crisis Diversion Team is having on Edmonton streets since launching in November 2015. 

The event included a detailed presentation from the independent consultant who studied the crisis data, as well as a panel discussion about  the challenges of collaborative partnerships and the successes and lessons found in the initiative so far. 

Gene Chan, of Civitas Consulting, said the program should save the city money over three years. based on his analysis, it should generate a projected social value of $3.66 for every $1 it receives in investment. These savings come from avoiding emergency, justice and social costs. 

The crisis diversion program costs about $2 million, with most of the funding coming from the City of Edmonton. 

"We've seen that the outcomes are phenomenal," said Julian Daly, executive director of Boyle Street Community Services. "The return on investment, financially, and also in human terms, has been massive as well." 

Because the partnership is always changing and adapting in real-time, the event was a chance to share the unique experience of these partners with the community. 

"This was a great opportunity to show the community the complexity of real collaboration and how we are working together to better serve vulnerable Edmontonians," said Jan Fox, executive director of REACH Edmonton. 

The initiative, which is a collaboration between Boyle Street community Services, Hope Mission, Canadian Mental Health Association (211), Edmonton Police Service, Alberta Health Services Emergency Medical Services and REACH Edmonton, aims to intervene in non-emergency crises, connecting vulnerable people with the supports they need, while allowing police and emergency medical services to focus on high priority calls.

"Not too long ago, on Friday and Saturday nights, our holding cells were full of individuals who had various levels of intoxication, that we had to provide care for," said Supt. David Veitch, while sitting on the discussion panel at the event. "We would bring in real bad guys, for robberies and dealing drugs, and we had no place to put them. So this idea of diversion is very important in getting them to places of safety so those individuals who are more able to deal with them appropriately can." 

Peak times for calls occurred in the evenings between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. and on the weekends. The teams served the entire city, but most of the calls were located downtown, on Whyte Avenue and in the city's northeast. 

Members of the public can dispatch the 24/7 Crisis Diversion Tam by calling 211 and pressing 3.