Camrose police presents report on mental health calls
By Lori Larsen
The police are, more often than not, first responders to situations involving individuals suffering from mental unwellness.
While their first priority is the safety of the public (including the subjects of the occurrence) and themselves, the breadth of their duties extends beyond having to mitigate possible escalating situations, investigate, and report and direct the file to other organizations that can offer further support.
During the Feb. 16 Committee of Whole meeting, City of Camrose council heard a presentation on a report conducted on Camrose Police Service (CPS) Mental Health Occurrences (calls for service).
The information in the report was collected by Jazmyn Borgel, a practicum student with British Columbia Institute of Technology and past resident of Camrose, in partnership with Camrose Police Service Inspector John Corbett and crime analyst Barb Fowler.
Both Borgel and Fowler presented highlights of the report, which provided an analysis of mental health related occurrences responded to by CPS for all of 2019 to the end of the third quarter of 2020. The data was obtained from CPS records management systems from the Camrose area.
According to the report, the number of mental health occurrences from January to September 2019 totalled 252, compared to January to September 2020 of 282.
In total for the year 2019 from January to December, there were 310 occurrences recorded. The projection for January to December 2020 is 376.
The demographics were broken down further into gender, age, intoxications, history of mental health, apprehended, and resident versus non-resident.
In 2019 (January to September), 125 (40 per cent) of mental health occurrences involved females and 185 (60 per cent) involved males. In 2020 (January to September), the percentages changed to reflect 51 per cent males and 49 per cent females.
“Comparing the instance of mental health occurrences over both years, females showed an increase in reports, and males showed a decrease compared to the same time last year,” noted Borgel.
Age factors indicated in 2019 were: ages 0-19 accounted for 15 per cent; 20 to 29, 27 per cent; 30 to 39, 22 per cent; 40 to 49, 14 per cent; and other, 22 per cent.
For 2020, ages zero to 19 accounted for 11 per cent; 20 to 29, 16 per cent; 30 to 39, 29 per cent; 40 to 49, 18 per cent; and other, 26 per cent.
“The data indicates that as a person’s age increases past 40, their chance of experiencing a mental health occurrence (involving the police) decreases.”
For both years, the data indicated that most mental health occurrences did not involve the use of intoxicants, while most of the occurrences, for both years, were reported from individuals with a history of mental health experiences.
Between January to September 2019 and January to September 2020, the comparison showed 187 in 2019 versus 210 in 2020 for mental health occurrences and the level of apprehension.
Both years’ data indicated that 74 per cent of the mental health occurrences did not result in an apprehension.
“Many of the individuals were spoken to by the police, had family to look after them, or were referred elsewhere,” said Borgel in the report.
According to the report, 83 per cent of the mental health occurrences in 2019 (January to September) involved residents of Camrose, and 87 per cent in 2020 (January to September) were Camrose residents.
“This indicates that services are focused on residents versus non-residents of Camrose,” said Borgel.
While all occurrences involved the presence of at least one officer, the data showed that, in some instances, three or more officers were needed. For the period of January to September 2019 and 2020, 40 per cent of the occurrences required two officers; in 2019, 30 per cent required one officer; while in 2020, it was 28 per cent. In 2019, 18 per cent of the occurrences required three officers, and 12 per cent other; while in 2020, 22 per cent required three officers, and 10 per cent other.
“What we found was most mental health occurrences needed one, two or three officers present,” reported Borgel.
Other agencies listed in the report which had some involvement in the mental health occurrences included St. Mary’s Hospital, EMS, designated psychiatric facilities, local social agencies, children services, police detachment services, schools, other hospitals in Alberta and churches.
“St. Mary’s Hospital was the most used agency to which police referred or utilized for both years.
“It is important to note that the top three agencies that are involved for these mental health occurrence reports are within the healthcare system.”
However, for all of 2019 and 2020 (January to September), the majority of mental health occurrences involved only the police.
Reports of mental health occurrences came from a variety of sources, the majority of which, for January to September 2019 and 2020, came from family members or the subject of the occurrence themselves.
“Analysis of the monthly data for both 2019 and January to September 2020 has shown that the month of May was one of the busiest with mental health occurrences overall. The busiest month from January to September 2019 was May with 19 per cent of occurrences; while from January to September 2020, August was the busiest with 16 per cent of occurrences. This change in 2020 may be due to COVID-19, rather than factors that were present in 2019.”
Data collected also indicated that in 2019, Fridays were noticeably higher for mental health occurrences, while in 2020, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesday were higher.
“As there was not a huge gap in variability from Sunday to Saturday, services are still needed every single day of the week.”
For both years, there were two general peaks during the day for mental health occurrences, the first occurring from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., and the second from 3 until 7 p.m.
“It might also be helpful to have mental health professionals available for assistance during these times which may be outside the average work hours,” suggested Borgel.
With regards to specific locations within the City for mental health occurrences, hot zones included St. Mary’s Hospital, Mount Pleasant Drive and Downtown.
“What we found was a person’s residence or a residence was the top location for mental health occurrences to occur for both 2019 and what we had for 2020.”
Councillor Kevin Hycha inquired to Camrose Police Service Chief Dean LaGrange as to whether or not CPS requires or would be revamping training for police officers, in light of the information presented in this report.
LaGrange responded, “This information is part and parcel of the PACT (Police and Crisis TEAM) and Hub programs that we are currently working with Alberta Health Services to get off the ground. Our crime prevention officer Kelly Bauer is being morphed into a dual role, where he will look after crime prevention as well as be the PACT officer.”
LaGrange said the goal is to get Alberta Health Services to provide a mental health nurse resource to be available to respond to mental health occurrences as well. “We provided Alberta Health Services with a copy of this report as well, to hopefully demonstrate a need within the community.”
Councillor Agnes Hoveland inquired about the non-resident status described in the report. “Are they citizens or residents, or are they in hotels/motels, or do they come to Camrose to seek existing resources, but are not as yet residents?”
Fowler indicated that the residents were defined as such if it could be proven they were residents of Camrose; non-residents did not have a permanent Camrose address.
LaGrange added that he is familiar with some instances of CPS dealing with people in Camrose using the resources of social agencies available in town, but are not residents of Camrose.
Hoveland commented, “I think it is exciting to see that this information might provide some impetus to the regular provision of a multidisciplinary team to deal with mental health issues. We have known for a long time this has been needed.”
LaGrange indicated that it is one of CPS’s top priorities and, that as evidenced by the report, there is enough call volume and that it is a currently a political hot topic.
Lindstrand asked specifically if the presenters could comment on the reasoning for some changes. “Why is there a relative increase in the occurrences involving women during this time period? Does it have something to do with the job market? Could you comment on the fact that there are older individuals involved than there were previously; and also, is it fair to conclude there was more severity in the cases in that there were more officers required to respond.”
LaGrange responded to Lindstand’s question about the severity of calls. “When you put in all of the stressors that people are going through right now in terms of the economic conditions, the pandemic, the lockdown–it really pushes people’s stress to the limit, and I think we are seeing that reflected in some of the calls.”
In response to Lindstrand’s two other inquiries about an increase in female and older people demographics, Fowler said that the report focused more on the collection of statistics and where the needs were identified.
For complete details on the report, visit the Camrose Police Service website at camrosepoliceservice.ca. The link is located at the bottom of the page under Documents.