United Way, CPS and City collaborate to coordinate community supports

Action Table Calgary brings human services together to help Calgarians at risk of crisis

Calgary’s human services sector has a new tool in its toolbox to provide rapid access to services and supports for Calgarians at risk of crisis. Action Table Calgary (ATC) is a new community approach that will help Calgarians with multiple risk factors who urgently need help. The partnership between United Way of Calgary and Area, The City of Calgary and the Calgary Police Service (CPS) brings representatives from community agencies together to provide coordinated support services within 24 to 48 hours.

Based on a successful model employed by FOCUS Toronto, ATC meets weekly to address cases of elevated risk in the community. Thirty agencies representing justice, social services, health care, education, government, child and youth services, mental health, addictions and housing review complex cases and coordinate community supports. At each table, agencies agree that intervention is beneficial, identify suitable services they can provide, and create an immediate action plan to reduce risk for that individual or family.

“United Way’s connections with local agencies, donors, organizations, volunteers, and government give us a comprehensive view of the social issues and trends that impact our city,” noted Susan Brooke, Vice President of Community Impact and Partnerships, United Way of Calgary and Area. “We believe Action Table Calgary will be successful in ensuring timely and coordinated solutions for people experiencing the most complex social issues.”

A 2020 report by PolicyWise for Children & Families and the Centre for Suicide Prevention report titled Transforming Calgary’s Crisis Response System, showed a need to improve support for Calgarians experiencing crises related to mental health concerns, addictions and similar challenges. Recommendations included strengthening the system, addressing gaps and improving quality of care. ATC is a positive step toward fulfilling those recommendations.

“Addressing the complex needs of Calgarians requires collaboration and that is why we’re excited about the integrated, wraparound approach to care offered through this project,” said Stephanie Undershute, Team Lead, Community Safety Initiatives, Community Strategies at the City of Calgary.

“The pilot began in January and will continue to the end of 2024,” said Asif Rashid, Superintendent, Strategic Partnerships Division, the Calgary Police Service. “During the pilot phase, we are working to build a strong table with partnerships that cover a wide range of sectors to address the complex issues that Calgarians face.”  

The City of Calgary’s Community Safety Investment Framework (CSIF) defines a person in crisis as someone “in need of urgent support due to mental or emotional distress, conflict, or a threat to their safety.” Crisis response is the immediate resources required by the individual experiencing a crisis, their families, friends, and support networks. In addition to providing a more coordinated community response, Action Table Calgary addresses the CPS’ commitment to Council to address crisis response transformation.

A 2022 FOCUS Toronto report showed that the police and justice system brought more than 70 per cent of cases to the table, but were involved in fewer than 10 per cent of the interventions. Coordinating complex crisis response across community organizations allows for a more efficient use of resources – so that individuals and families get the right interventions at the right time.

“In Toronto, there was a 68.75 per cent reduction in police contacts over a three-year period from clients who had been brought to the table. We hope to see comparable results from Action Table Calgary,” Superintendent Rashid added.

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