The Winnipeg Police Chief is expected to briefly address a new mental health program within the Winnipeg Police Service on Friday and the positive impact it has already had, which is exciting news for those involved.
The Alternative Response to Citizens in Crisis (ARCC) program was launched in December 2021 to better support people in a mental health crisis.
ARCC teams consist of a plainclothes officer and a mental health specialist who answer 911 calls related to mental health.
“Since its inception, ARCC has made significant strides in supporting individuals in chronic crisis and in need of coordinated community support. During the past quarter, the ARCC responded to 82 police operations,” Chief Danny Smyth said in a report to be released at the Winnipeg Police Department meeting on Friday.
Erika Hunzinger, a manager at Crisis Response Services who oversees the ARCC program, said she feels the program is doing very well.
“AARC has really been at the forefront of creating collaborative plans. Part of that is developing a response plan for one person so general patrol officers can use that as an informed tool when responding to a call,” Hunzinger said. She noted that this move allows AARC to continue to play a role in assisting with mental health calls even when they are off-duty.
She said it was extremely encouraging to know that the program was being viewed in a positive light.
As well as being a good system for the police, it said it has helped the healthcare system by responding to more calls and also providing an element of security for the specialist psychiatrist.
While there are teams that call the police, Hunzinger said there has also been case management work for those who have frequent 911 calls and visits to health centers.
This is something Smyth also addressed in his report, referring to an individual involved in 62 incidents in 2021 that required police.
“ARCC began proactive case management of this individual in January 2022. Through the collaborative and coordinated efforts of nine separate government and community agencies, the individual’s behavior stabilized, resulting in a 24% reduction in police calls through the end of the first quarter. ‘ Smyth said in the report.
Hunzinger said in the past, callers to 911 were asked if they wanted to go to the crisis response center or if they could be taken to an emergency room.
“If ARCC goes out, they can safely care for those people right in their own homes 87 percent of the time in the first quarter,” she said. “We have just responded to the tip of the work iceberg. The work we have done shows a tremendous impact in not having to remove a person from their home environment.”
Going forward, Hunzinger said she would love to see the program switched to seven days a week as it currently only runs Monday through Friday and she would like to see more teams available on any given day.
As December approaches the program’s one-year anniversary, she hopes to show the impact of the ARCC team’s work.
“We are demonstrating that this more collaborative model is effective, and that’s what I hope to show in the limited amount of work we can do with two teams – that the work done is high quality and preferred by individuals.”
Before the ARCC program, Smyth said in his report that in 2020 police made 2,102 trips to health facilities with people in crisis and spent the equivalent of 147 days waiting with people to be handed over to clinical staff.