As part of a Saskatchewan pilot project that the police agency says is the first of its kind in Canada, psychiatric nurses integrated into the RCMP’s operational command centre in Regina are receiving 911 calls from persons in mental distress and teaching front-line officers.
When speaking with a person in a mental health crisis or assisting RCMP officers in real-time during a mental health emergency, the nurses have access to an individual’s electronic health data and history, which are off-limits to police.
In 2020, the Saskatchewan RCMP received 4,640 mental health calls at its command centre, with the caller stating that their emergency was related to their mental health. In the first six months of this year, it received 2,474 such calls.
According to Jones, police officers held the disturbed individual under the province’s Mental Health Services Act and subsequently supervised them for hours in a hospital emergency room in many of those cases.
The 12-month pilot, which began on May 31, is already yielding positive results. According to Jones, 17 of the first 50 phone calls received were handled differently from typical police practice.
“Police did not have to make an arrest or transport that individual to the hospital in handcuffs or into our cells in handcuffs,” he explained. Two nurses, both employed by the Saskatchewan Health Authority and recruited by the RCMP, are already on the job inside the command centre. To guarantee that the service is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they will be joined by two additional healthcare workers.
According to the RCMP, nurses will only verbally discuss health record information with police if protocols are in place to protect police, medical, and personal information.
“The ultimate aim is to provide the least amount of information feasible while yet providing enough to better support the health of persons in distress and get them the care they seek,” an RCMP spokesman stated via email.