City looks into RCMP PACT and mobile outreach

Grande Prairie city council was informed of the difference between the RCMP Police and Crisis Teams (PACT) and mobile outreach teams on Feb. 28 at the Public & Protective Services Committee.

Grande Prairie RCMP Superintendent Lee Brachmann gave the presentation, as the committee wanted information regarding the cost-effectiveness of PACT compared to adding more Mobile Outreach teams.

The city’s mobile outreach program is set up to mitigate the impacts of street-level social disorder, addiction, and public intoxication.

“There is some overlap, sometimes, between the work of PACT and mobile outreach; they definitely are distinct programs in terms of their focus, we have the PACT focus being mental health and health-related and the mobile outreach program being socially focused related to housing, homelessness,” said Brachmann.

“The services do complement each other and are both valued services here in the community.”

He said he believes if either service were to stop, there would be a gap in service for those that need it.

“The primary function of PACT ... is to respond to mental-health related calls for service, mental health crises, to intervene, assess and conduct follow-ups with individuals in the community who are experiencing those mental health crises,” said Brachmann.

The city's PACT team currently comprises one uniformed RCMP officer and a registered psychiatric nurse working opposite shifts to “maximize coverage.”

PACT has been involved in approximately 2,223 police files from 2020 to 2022, said Brachmann.

The city’s mobile outreach deals with matters including homelessness, addictions and mental health as well as assisting businesses and residents with community concerns involving street-engaged people.

Funding for PACT has the city paying for the RCMP officer and Alberta Health Services (AHS) covering the cost of the nurse.

City coun. Gladys Blackmore noted efforts are being made to add a psychiatric nurse role to mobile outreach but wasn’t aware of any progress. Brachmann said that he has not received an answer in his regular meetings with AHS if the addition of a psychiatric nurse will go ahead.

The city report on mobile outreach and PACT stated that without PACT a “significant service gap would open, as a response for all mental health calls would fall to frontline general duty RCMP members.”

The Public & Protective Services Committee voted to accept the presentation for information.

About a week later, the city decided to move forward with its municipal police service to replace the RCMP. During those deliberations on March 7, Chris Manuel, the city’s emergency services executive director, said the future municipal police service would include psychiatric nurses, outreach workers and case managers. The transition to a municipal force is expected to take place over the next five years.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News