On Thursday night, the Moose Jaw Police Service highlighted all the good work the Police and Crisis Team (PACT) is doing in the community.

A presentation was held during Week 2 of Citizens' Police Academy.

PACT is a partnership between the Moose Jaw Police Service and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA). Intervention is aimed to help create a better outcome for individuals and families struggling with mental illness. PACT units pair a police officer with a mental health professional to help direct individuals with mental health issues to appropriate services.

There are two full-time teams in Moose Jaw that work 12-hour shifts to provide seven-day-a-week coverage for the city.

Constable Jay Sills has been a police officer for over 21 years and has been a member of PACT since December 2020.

"This program has probably been, in my view, one of the most impactful programs that we've been able to put forth as a police service. I think there was just a realization in policing in general, this was across the country, that we weren't prepared or trained well enough to deal with people in mental health crisis and with this partnership, it's opened up so many more doors or opportunities for the people that we're helping that are in this crisis."

Sills notes the police force was pretty limited prior to this program on how they could deal with someone in mental health crisis. The individual would more than likely end up being taken to the hospital. 

"With this program, we've been able to realize that's not necessarily the best situation or the best thing for that person in their crisis," he continued. "There's just so many more options that are available to us. Getting them through their crisis, helping them safety plan but then setting up some resources in the background that can follow up after us."

Kirsten Clark is a social worker with the SHA and has been with PACT since its inception back in 2018. She says, in the beginning, her role was to provide information to help police with managing crisis in the community.

"Our role now is working with my partner on assessing an individual," she explained. "Deciding whether or not they meet the criteria to go to the hospital or if there's a better plan that we can put in place. My role is to communicate with the health region on what our clients are experiencing, gathering information, providing their doctors with the information or their workers."

Clark says many of the people they work with on a regular basis had a negative impression of police and mental health as well. 

"We've spent a lot of time just normalizing what they're going through," she commented. "Making sure that they understand that we're on their side. We advocate for them. They often feel like they're not being heard or people aren't listening to the things that they're saying specifically and so we will do that advocating. Help connect them to resources that they've just been trying to and it's not worked in the past. A lot of our folks just struggle to access services on a regular basis, whether it's community resources or mental health. We've been able to help them jump through the hoops without it being difficult."

Sills notes the PACT unit responds to a variety of calls, with a lot of those being well-being checks where a family member or friend hasn't seen someone for a few days.

"Possibly someone's making Facebook posts that are concerning or suicidal ideations, that type of thing, and they want us to just check on this person and make sure they're ok. Things like assist-to-locates. We'll go to disturbances. Really to sum it up, something that's just weird or abnormal, generally, our PACT team goes to those calls. It could be someone that's in a crisis on the street or is yelling and screaming and causing a disturbance."

He says the extra time they can spend with people in crisis makes all the difference.

"Patrols often go from call to call to call and the way it's setup it just allows us to spend that extra time, which makes this person feel like they're being heard. It's just about relationship building, really."

The Citizens' Police Academy will run every Thursday at the Moose Jaw Police Station from 6 pm to 9 pm.

April 27 - Criminal Investigation Section presentation and Forensics Identification Unit presentation
May 4 - Victim Services along with service dog Sven, Community and Strategic Services presentation, Drones
May 11 - Tactical Response Team presentation, firearms