Pilot project sees change in how Winnipeg police respond to wellness checks

Plain clothes officers will work closely with wellness workers to respond to crisis calls.

The Winnipeg police are changing the way it responds to calls for wellness checks and will work closely with mental health workers in a new pilot project that is scheduled to start in December.

The new program called, Alternative Response to Citizens in Crisis, includes the Winnipeg Police Service and Shared Health crisis response services and the city.

According to police, there were nearly 19,000 wellness checks in 2020 – the highest on record.

Police have also been encouraged to work closely with mental health workers to ensure a good outcome.

It will see four designated officers team up with a group of clinicians to respond to mental health calls where specialized services may be needed.

The team will operate over a 12-hour period from Monday to Friday.

Winnipeg police say the team will provide mental health support during a reported crisis as well as follow-up services such as resources for addictions treatment or ways to access housing.

Police say wellness calls have increased during the past year and officers can receive more than 15 calls a day requesting help.

The move comes as grassroots groups across the country have been calling for alternatives to police responding to mental health calls following the police-shooting deaths of Chantal Moore and Rodney Levi last year. Both died after officers responded to wellness checks.

With files from the Canadian Press

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