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City of Red Deer

Capitalizing on Collaboration

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Submitted by Chad Krahn of Common Sense Red Deer

Collaboration between the City of Red Deer and the County is at an all-time high.

Case in point, the recent joint trip made by Mayor Woods and Mayor Johnson to the Paris International Airshow in support of the Red Deer Regional Airport.

While it may seem like a big and expensive trip, you can’t catch fish if you don’t go fishing.

If this trip results in attracting a new airline to the Red Deer Regional Airport, it could have a huge impact on our region.

There’s no sense going at it alone if we can work together with our neighbours on bringing prosperity to the area.

And, I have some other suggestions about how to do that!

Now is the perfect time to initiate collaborative projects that benefit the entire region.

The government is discussing the possibility of creating new economic corridors, and it is time for our Mayor to push for a new highway from Red Deer to Kamloops.

Just imagine having a faster and safer highway, which bypasses the mountain parks, allowing for quicker travel from BC to Alberta!

Mayor Johnson and his counterpart in the County, should look to set a meeting with the Mayor of Kamloops to explore the potential of a new superhighway to change travel and trade across western Canada, the same way the Coquihalla Highway changed travel to the lower mainland. A route from Kamloops to Red Deer would be a game changer.

Just imagine if there were no more semis driving that steep pass in Golden or clogging Highway 1 in Banff.

This would position Red Deer as the central hub for trade and traffic between BC and Alberta, make our highways safer, and further protect the National Parks.

Next, it is also important to consider the creation of a local police force for Red Deer.

Recent incidents, such as the $6 million bill to the City for RCMP backpay, have occurred without the involvement or approval of local authorities.

As policing represents the biggest line item in the City’s budget, it would be prudent to explore any alternatives, especially in light of Council’s desire to try to keep tax increases from becoming the norm.

The RCMP has recently revealed that they are struggling with recruitment and have a significant vacancy rate of 17% for officers across Canada.

In Alberta the RCMP is understaffed 13% despite paying for the full complement of officers.

This understaffing no doubt puts pressure on our dedicated officers in Red Deer who are doing their absolute best.

While there’s been lots of talk about whether Alberta should pursue a provincial police force or not, the City of Grande Prairie just went right ahead and ditched the RCMP in favour of a municipal police force earlier this year.

There’s also been increasing discussion in Ottawa of ending the RCMP’s provision of contract policing services across Canada entirely.

This means that, whether the province goes ahead with a provincial police force or not, there is a possibility that we may be required to establish our own police force in the future anyway, so an investigation at least is warranted.

By prioritizing collaboration, we can drive positive change and achieve more effective outcomes for our community.

It is crucial that we consider these opportunities and work together to see Red Deer and our entire region flourish.

If you’d like to contribute to our efforts, and you have the means to do so, will you please help us with a donation:

Regards,

Chad and the Common Sense Red Deer Team

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City of Red Deer

City introduces new phone number to report non-emergency mental health, addiction, or homeless issues

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New streamlined way to reach Red Deer’s Social Diversion Team

Since launching in 2021, the Social Diversion Team (SDT) has been responding to calls throughout Red Deer for individuals in need of non-emergency support, whether experiencing mental health struggles, addictions issues, or homelessness.

Beginning March 1, 2024, the community will need to call the non-emergency police line at 403-406-2200 to connect with the Social Diversion Team. This move from the previous 2-1-1 call line will improve the caller’s ability to quickly connect with a Police Communications Operator who can quickly determine the nature of the call and dispatch the appropriate resources in a timely and efficient manner.

“This change simplifies calling and dispatching the Social Diversion Team,” said Peter Puszka, Municipal Policing Services Superintendent. “Red Deerians now need to remember only one contact number for all non-emergency community safety concerns and our experienced, well-trained Police Communications Operators can assess the circumstances of the call, determine which resource is appropriate and dispatch accordingly.”

Though the Alberta 2-1-1 has been the dispatching service since the onset of the program, the move to internal dispatching will simplify the call-in process, removing barriers like pre-recorded messaging and on-hold wait times, improve internal communication between the dispatchers and the responding Social Diversion Team, and allow for operators with local community knowledge to provide enhanced response.

While the phone number has changed, all other elements of the program remain the same. The two-person Social Diversion Team consists of a Licensed Practical Nurse and a Social Diversion Specialist, who respond to reports of individuals in distress. The team connects clients with the social services they need, such as housing supports, mental health supports, detox programs and harm reduction resources.

“We are excited to continue providing individuals with the right response at the right time,” says Ryan Veldkamp, Social Wellness & Integration Supports Superintendent. “We know that not every call is an emergency call, and that’s why the Social Diversion Team is the right choice for these situations where individuals are in crisis. The team continues to allow our first responders to concentrate on responding to critical medical emergencies and criminal matters.”

In its three years of operation, the SDT has averaged a response rate of 185 events per month or approximately 6 calls a day. The teams use their specialized training to provide assessment, intervention and support to those in need.

Stephanie MacDonald, Outreach and Housing Services Manager for Safe Harbour Society said, “The Social Diversion Team is very excited for this change over and believes that this will allow for a more effective and timely response.”

While the SDT continues to operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days a week, the 24/7 non-

emergency line will dispatch the SDT based on their availability, or utilize other policing and medical services when they are not.

To learn more about the Social Diversion Team, visit www.reddeer.ca/SDT.

When Should I call the Social Diversion Team?

If you see someone who is:

  • Experiencing a mental health or medical (non-emergency) crisis
  • Intoxicated or otherwise impaired
  • Requiring transport to appropriate services (i.e. a shelter)
  • Sleeping in an unsafe space and/or inappropriately dressed for the weather
  • Requiring social services (i.e. housing, nutrition, health or community supports)
  • Likely to come to harm without intervention

And the individual is not posing an immediate harm to themselves or others, call 403-406-2200

The team’s hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. However, the non-emergency (403-406-2200) line is operated 24/7. Outside of the Social Diversion team operating hours, callers will be provided with either a community referral, crisis intervention support, connected to 911, or offered a follow-up.

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Addictions

City Council decides to close Red Deer’s Overdose Prevention Site

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City Council requests the Province of Alberta make changes to OPS in Red Deer

City Council made decisions (Friday) related to Red Deer’s Overdose Prevention Site (OPS), requesting the Government of Alberta (GOA):

  • formalize an orderly transition of the existing OPS out of Red Deer by the end of 2025;
  • provide in its place greater harm reducing options within our community that focus on health, wellness, and recovery, including more detox capacity, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), recovery coaches, counsellors, and culturally appropriate health and wellness supports, etc.;
  • provide dedicated grant funding to provide a continuous police presence/enforcement in the immediate vicinity of the OPS and temporary shelter, until the crime and social disorder impacts associated with these provincial services are better mitigated for the safety and security of our public;
  • substantially increase front-line supports for mental health and addictions within our community/region to better address the root causes leading to drug and alcohol addictions.

These decisions stem from a Notice of Motion put forward by Councillor Higham on December 18, 2023. After being read into the record on January 22, 2024, a non-statutory public hearing was scheduled for yesterday, February 15, 2024. Approximately 40 members of the public attended the non-statutory public hearing, with approximately 30 individuals speaking to the Notice of Motion, sharing their thoughts on the issue.

After hearing from the public yesterday, City Council debated the motion today, with Mayor Ken Johnston now having City Council direction to take the issue forward to the province and proceed with advocacy efforts.

“The public hearing and the debate of this motion were harrowing and emotional experiences for everyone. Each of us have been touched in some way by addiction; we heard that very clearly, and I am no exception. We heard heartfelt testimony from many members of our community, citizens, some who use the OPS, some who are service providers in the community, business owners, doctors, family members that have lost loves ones, and more,” said Mayor Johnston. “Council approached this most sensitive of issues with open minds, open ears, and open hearts. We are trying to improve lives for those suffering from addiction. This is a complex challenge, as these are areas where municipalities do not have jurisdiction. What we know is that Red Deer needs robust support from the provincial government for people with addictions; we need support for our community that is grappling with the fallout of addictions; and we need that support in the most immediate way.”

Mayor Johnston added, “Following this meeting, I will reach out to the Ministry of Addictions and Mental Health to book meetings where we can discuss how to move forward in the best interest of our city.”

Currently the OPS is located 5246 53 Avenue in downtown Red Deer.

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