Alberta’s government is continuing to take action to keep communities safe while treating mental health and addiction as health care issues. Through Budget 2023, an investment of $17 million over three years will double the number of Human-centred Engagement and Liaison Partnership (HELP) teams in Edmonton and provide recovery-oriented health supports to people in EPS custody.
“We are continuing to take a fair, firm and compassionate approach towards addressing addiction and mental health issues while keeping communities safe. Police are vital partners in addressing the complex social challenges facing Edmonton, and our government is proud to be partnering with them to help connect Albertans to the supports that they need.”
“Edmonton police are serving on the front lines of the addiction crisis and have an important role to play. This funding brings together health professionals, community partners and police through partnerships that share a common goal: helping more people get well and pursue recovery while keeping our communities safe.”
“As MLA for Edmonton-South West, I am pleased to see that our government has allotted much needed funding to create more HELP teams to support the Edmonton Police Service. The new support will help address the public safety, mental health and addiction crisis in the city. The safety of the people of Edmonton is paramount. No one should be afraid to walk alone in our streets. We all share a common goal of providing adequate supports while keeping our communities safe”.
This funding includes:
- $3.5 million for 12 new social navigator positions and two team leads, which will double the number of HELP teams in Edmonton
- $2 million for eight new social navigator positions to support the EPS Divergence and Desistance Branch
- $2.4 million for eight mental health therapists to support Edmonton’s 911 Dispatch Centre and EPS officers over the phone with clinical expertise
- $6.3 million to add the following health professionals:
- two full-time health care practitioners, two paramedics, two recovery coaches and 12 community safety officers at EPS Downtown Division
- two paramedics at EPS Northwest Division
- $2 million for equipment, training, administrative and other related costs
- $858,000 in one-time capital funding for six new HELP team vehicles and facility upgrades
These initiatives are part of ongoing efforts led by the Edmonton Public Safety and Community Response Task Force to improve public safety while treating addiction and mental health as health care issues. These efforts also include tripling the number of Police and Crisis Teams (PACT) in Edmonton to support people experiencing a mental health crisis.
Expanding outreach teams in Edmonton
Like many large cities, Edmonton has been hard hit by the addiction crisis, and this is especially evident in the downtown area. Expanding outreach teams in Edmonton will help respond to an urgent need to connect people struggling with mental health and addiction to critical services and mitigate social disorder.
“Community wellness and community safety go hand in hand. The HELP team has shown impressive results, and we are proud to continue building on their good work and introduce more integrated health services for people in police custody. We are grateful for the support of the government. These actions are important steps in responding to the complex social issues facing our city.”
“Additional support for the HELP teams is positive news for Edmonton. This investment is key in breaking the cycle, by shifting the focus on mental health and addiction away from enforcement and directing individuals to programs and services that can help them live with hope and dignity.”
Alberta’s government is doubling the number of HELP teams in Edmonton. These teams pair police officers with social navigators from local community organizations who can help Albertans access recovery-oriented supports. The province is also providing funding to add social navigators to the EPS Divergence and Desistance Branch, which works with individuals who most frequently interact with the health and justice systems, and to place AHS mental health therapists in Edmonton’s 911 Dispatch Centre and to have mental health therapists available to support EPS officers over the phone with clinical expertise.
Providing addiction and mental health support in police custody
Police officers frequently respond to calls related to addiction and mental health. By offering a range of services and supports for people in police custody, Alberta’s government can support Albertans with complex addiction and mental health challenges while improving public safety for everyone.
People detained on a public intoxication charge will be assessed and provided options for treatment and support in a secure environment at the Edmonton Police Service Downtown Division. This location is close to both the downtown core and Chinatown, which are areas of Edmonton where significant public safety concerns have been identified by the city, local businesses, business associations and Edmontonians. Health professionals will offer medical support, connect clients with other social and mental health and addiction supports, and provide referrals to programs like the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program, which provides same-day access to life-saving medications.
In December 2022, Alberta’s government established two cabinet task forces to bring community partners together to address the issues of addiction, homelessness and public safety in Calgary and Edmonton. The two Public Safety and Community Response Task Forces are responsible for implementing $187 million in provincial funding to further build out a recovery-oriented system of addiction and mental health care. The initiatives being implemented are part of a fair, firm and compassionate approach to keeping communities safe while treating addiction and mental health as health care issues.
Budget 2023 secures Alberta’s future by transforming the health care system to meet people’s needs, supporting Albertans with the high cost of living, keeping our communities safe and driving the economy with more jobs, quality education and continued diversification.
- Health services staff at the EPS Downtown Division will be able to assess and help up to 17 people at any given time.
- This funding is part of the $63 million for initiatives that specifically increase access to addiction treatment and support in Edmonton, implemented through the Edmonton Public Safety and Community Response Task Force.
- Albertans experiencing addiction or mental health challenges can contact 211 for information on services in their community. 211 is free, confidential and available 24-7.
- Albertans struggling with opioid addiction can contact the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program (VODP) by calling 1-844-383-7688, seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. VODP provides same-day access to addiction medicine specialists. There is no wait list.