REACH Edmonton

As the weather dips to frigid temperatures during the winter months, members of the public can help their vulnerable neighbours by calling 211 if they see a person who may need shelter from the cold. But many Edmontonians seem to have already gotten the message, as public calls to 211 have increased exponentially since 2015.

The 24/7 Crisis Diversion Team responds around the clock, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The teams provide crisis intervention services when someone is in non-emergency distress.

A key to the program's success has been regular Edmontonians who take the time to make a phone call.

During the cold snap over the holidays, the teams saw a 14 per cent increase in the number of crisis events referred to them compared to the mild-weathered week before.

Since the initiative's launch in October 2015, the number of referrals from 211 has more than doubled. Crisis diversion responses that started with a call to 211 rose from 30% of all calls in year one, to nearly 70% during the last three months of 2017.

"What this shows us is that Edmotonians care about their vulnerable community members and they want to help," said Jan Fox, Executive of REACH Edmonton. "When you call 211, the Crisis Diversion Team can connect people to the services they need."

This not only prevents unnecessary interaction with the justice system, but saves valuable police time so that officers can focus on more urgent calls.

The 24/7 Crisis Diversion Team is a collaborative partnership of six Edmonton organizations including Boyle Street Community Services, Hope Mission, Canadian Mental Health Association (211), Edmonton Police Service, Alberta Health Services Emergency Medical Services and REACH Edmonton.