Calgary, AB,

Call-Diversion and Co-Location Initiative Launches in Calgary

The Calgary Police Service, Calgary 911 and 211 have begun a five-month call- diversion and co-location initiative to ensure Calgarians are getting the most appropriate service response in their time of need.

As community partners and part of our overall commitment to our city, CPS, Calgary 911 and 211 have worked collaboratively to find a long-term solution to assist people in distress who are better served by mental health, addiction or social services, rather than a police response.

In June 2021, The City of Calgary, the Calgary Police Service and the Calgary Police Commission announced funding for programs and initiatives to advance equitable and effective crisis response systems and develop better ways to support Calgarians in crisis. The funding comes from a combination of the $8 million Community Safety Investment Framework and the $8 million Calgary Police Service Budget Reallocation Funds.

Phase one of the call diversion project that began in early January, saw 211 call takers virtually co-locate with Calgary 911 at the Whitehorn Multi-Services Centre. As part of this first-of-its-kind approach in Calgary, the initial co-location period allowed for the learning and understanding around processes and procedures between Calgary 911 and 211. Many Calgarians may also have seen or heard about Make the Right Call, a joint-services campaign launched in December, educating people on when to call 211 instead of 911.

Starting Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, call takers will begin looking for opportunities to connect some 911 and non-emergency line callers to 211 or Distress Centre Calgary. These calls include non-life-threatening and non-criminal calls that otherwise may have been dispatched to the Calgary Police Service. This includes connecting calls from 911 to 211 when the caller expresses the need to speak with someone about their mental health, addiction or other resourcing issues where there is no emergency or need for police.

“We heard directly from Calgarians that we needed to find alternatives to responding to those in crisis. This project is a massive step in the right direction. By working in partnership with The City and local outreach organizations, we’ve been able to create real and long-term change in this area,” said CPS Chief Constable Mark Neufeld. “This is just the beginning of a long-term call-diversion strategy for our city.”

By providing an alternate social services response to police, calls will be diverted to an appropriate agency for assistance. This also includes calls for parenting and bullying advice and food and housing requests. For a full list of services provided through 211 and Distress Centre, please click here.

“Every year, Calgary 911 answers more than one million calls. This works out to more than 3,000 calls every single day and night, representing a 30 per-cent-increase in call volumes over the last decade. Many of these calls are from citizens asking for advice regarding non-emergency domestic violence, social disorder and other mental health and addiction inquiries,” explained Calgary 911 Acting Commander, Glenda Sahlen. “By co-locating the community-based crisis services provided by 211 into the Calgary 911 operations centre, the intent is to reduce the demand on 911 and improve the response to non-emergency mental health-related calls, resulting in better outcomes for Calgarians in crisis.”

"Distress Centre has a long-standing partnership with Calgary Police and 911 and this co-location pilot is an exciting demonstration of the strengthening and transformation of that partnership to better serve Calgarians,” said Robyn Romano, Chief Executive Officer of Distress Centre Calgary. 211 Calgary is operated by Distress Centre. “When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, it can be an urgent and distressing situation but often does not require a 911 response. When someone contacts 211 they’ll speak to a live person who can connect them with the right resources and services for their issue.”

Other commitments to call diversion continue to progress with the help of municipal and provincial partners. This includes the increase in hours of operation of the Mobile Response Team, and the expansion of the Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) as well as the Police and Crisis Team (PACT).