New building puts HELP police, social and health agencies under one roof


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An Edmonton Police Department program to divert the city’s most vulnerable people from the criminal justice system now has a new building with social agencies and health services working together under one roof.

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EPS’s Human-Centered Engagement and Liaison (HELP) partnership, launched in January, recently moved into a new building on 106th Avenue just north of Rogers Place, police said during an event on Wednesday. Having the agencies working in the same space aims to better coordinate plans specific to each person’s needs, which may include substance abuse counseling, health care, transportation, housing, employment, and financial support, as well. only basic skills.

Insp. Kellie Morgan said HELP is a new approach to policing focused on root causes and barriers such as homelessness, mental health, addictions and intergenerational trauma.

“Rather than the traditional police response of arrest and incarceration, we want and need to break the cycle for many. It is essential that we divert people away from the criminal justice system and into the social, health and community supports they need, ”she said.

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Morgan said 280 people have been submitted to the HELP program, which is voluntary, since its launch in early January.

HELP teams include a police officer and a Boyle Street Community Services ‘navigator’ who proactively patrol together and can be called upon by frontline police officers. There are eight gendarmes, 10 navigators and a fleet of eight vehicles with the HELP logo. These teams can connect the people they meet with other departments.

Chief Dale McFee said PSE must focus both on policing crime and helping those in need using a combined law enforcement and public health response.

He believes this approach will reduce crime, calls for service, visits to hospitals and social services, and will benefit both individuals and society.

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“The key is to use jail for those who really need this kind of rehabilitation and to keep the people you can actually turn away from (jail). And if you can get away from it, it’s cheaper, faster, and has better results. It’s not one or the other, it’s both.

Jordan Reiniger, executive director of Boyle Street, said more people have become homeless during the pandemic and face more complicated issues.

There are also the issues of racism, the discovery of anonymous graves in residential schools that reopen trauma, he said, as well as fears surrounding the drug poisoning crisis. He said teams made up of both social workers and police give them the ability to better respond to people in distress.

“When there are problems, the police are often the only ones who can’t say no, so they end up taking care of a lot of things that should be dealt with more appropriately by other systems. That’s the hope of this whole program, ”Reiniger said.

HELP operates from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, but police can refer people to the program outside of these hours.

EPS funds agents and navigators through the capital budget. Other agencies pay for their own staff. Katz Group Real Estate donated the building to the HEAL team for five years.

Alberta Health Services, Homeward Trust, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, George Spady Society, Mustard Seed Society, REACH Edmonton, Bissell Center Edmonton, Boyle McCauley Health Services, E4C, and municipal and provincial governments are also part of HELP.

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