Saskatchewan residents can receive help from registered psychiatric nurses when calling 911 for a mental health crisis, thanks to a program out of the RCMP Operational Communication Centre (OCC).
In a recent media release, police said the program is becoming permanent at the OCC, the centre that responds to residents in need of police services in small towns and rural areas across the province.
The program ran a 12-month pilot that was very successful with positive results.
"This is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” said one caller. “Thank you for being able to talk to me and get me help."
"I was treated like a person,” said another resident. “To have someone there at the lowest point in my life really made a difference in how I got through the crisis and how I feel about the RCMP. Police officers haven't always been my best friends, but I understand now they are there to support me and offer me assistance."
During that year, 99.8% of callers reporting a mental health crisis agreed to speak with the nurse; 80% of the callers assessed by a nurse immediately received referrals to be admitted to a mental health and/or addiction service; and 71% of the callers assessed by a nurse avoided being driven by a police officer to an Emergency Department to get a diagnosis and/or treatment.
Jocelyn James, Manager of the Saskatchewan RCMP Operational Communication Centre, said in the written release their nurses were ready just in time for the holiday season, which always brings an influx of calls.
"We are extremely happy to see our project come to fruition,” James said. “We worked hard to adapt a European model to the reality of Saskatchewan's remote regions, and to develop processes that allow two very different professions to work together. It was all well worth it.”
A responding Saskatchewan RCMP officer said: "It feels nice to know, when going out on these calls, that we have someone in our back pocket with the expertise and knowledge to allow us to provide a valuable service and referrals for the people we see going through a crisis."
Another responding Saskatchewan RCMP officer said: "It is so helpful to have another option besides taking persons in crisis to cells or hospitals, when neither are great options most of the time. I am so grateful the nurses do thorough assessments and put in the supports right away."
A total of four registered psychiatric nurses are available for mental health services between noon and midnight from Monday to Thursday, and 24 hours from Friday to Sunday.
If you, or someone you know, are currently experiencing a mental health crisis, please call 911.