Red Deer’s new Social Diversion Team is ready to respond to calls of individuals in distress as it officially launches this week.
Red Deerians are asked to call 2-1-1 and press 2 if they see someone that needs non-emergency support, such as someone experiencing mental health issues, addictions crisis or homelessness.
“Rather than dispatching an officer or medic to a non-emergency situation, residents and business owners can call in the Social Diversion Team who will use their specialized training to provide assessment, intervention and support,” says Sarah Tittemore, interim Chair of the Systems Leadership Team. “Often, people see something that is concerning to them, but feel it doesn’t warrant an emergency call. The Social Diversion Team fills that niche to respond to these types of social issues.”
The two-person Social Diversion Team pairs a Licensed Practical Nurse with a Social Diversion Specialist, and together, they will respond to reports of individuals in distress. The team can connect people with the social services they need, such as housing supports, mental health supports, detox programs and harm reduction resources.
The Social Diversion Team and the 2-1-1 service should also help reduce the number of calls for service that Red Deer’s emergency and policing services receive on a daily basis. Since early January, 9-1-1 dispatch and non-emergency call takers have been working with 2-1-1 to divert calls to the Social Diversion Team, when appropriate.
“One of our Annual Policing Plan priorities is to decrease the impacts of social disorder on Red Deer citizens. We welcome the opportunity to work with the Social Diversion team to provide people with the right response at the right time,” says Insp. Holly Glassford, Red Deer RCMP.
“What’s most important is that people get the help they need, when they need it, and that Red Deerians feel these concerns are responded to properly,” says Ken McMullen Deputy General Manager of Development & Protective Services. “This new resource will also allow our first responders to concentrate on responding to critical medical emergencies and criminal matters.”
During the 2019 Community Safety Summit, hosted by the Systems Leadership Team, participants called for a broader spectrum of resources to address safety issues; the Social Diversion Program acknowledges this input.
“This program is one of many community safety initiatives intended to bring necessary and responsive change to our community at a time when some of our most vulnerable are struggling, especially given the continuing pandemic and economic uncertainty facing the people of our city. This pilot, which stems from Red Deer City Council’s Community Safety Strategy, demonstrates our commitment to innovation and safety action for the benefit of all citizens in our city,” said Mayor Tara Veer.
The one year pilot program will utilize the 2-1-1 service for dispatch and contracts personnel through Safe Harbour. While the Social Diversion team’s hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the onset of the Pilot Program, 2-1-1 will respond to calls 24/7, and refer them to the proper agency for response.
For more information about the Social Diversion team, please visit www.reddeer.ca/211.
A Backgrounder is attached with additional information about the Social Diversion Team and System Leadership Team.
For more information, please contact:
Communications & Strategic Planning
The City of Red Deer