News / Edmonton

Crisis Diversion Team benefits extend beyond cost savings in Edmonton

For every dollar spent by Edmonton’s 24/7 Crisis Diversion Team, $3.66 is saved in emergency, justice and social costs, according to an auditor.

Hope Mission rescue van manager Ryan Harding.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

Hope Mission rescue van manager Ryan Harding.

The Hope Mission's fleet of white and orange rescue vans have become a common sight on central Edmonton's streets in the last year and half, and a new report says they're not only helping the city's most vulnerable, but saving money, too.

But a manager of Edmonton's 24/7 Crisis Diversion Team said the acknowledgment of success reinforces his belief that there’s more work ahead.

The team, a collaboration between Hope Mission, Boyle Street Community Services, REACH Edmonton and other community organizations, was established in November 2015 to intervene in situations where vulnerable people would otherwise find themselves sent to jail or an emergency room.

“Sometimes, when we’re talking about an intoxicated individual on the street, they don’t need police intervention, they just need someone to wake them up, transport them and get them somewhere safe,” said Hope Mission’s Ryan Harding. “We can take them someplace with resources to get help and free up [emergency responders] to do things they’re more equipped to do.”

According to an audit conducted by Civitas Consulting, presented Wednesday, the program has already paid dividends.

The 24/7 team responded to 7,943 crisis diversion events in all of 2016 and for every dollar spent, the audit said $3.66 has been saved in avoided emergency, justice and social costs.

The team’s presence on the streets has certainly been appreciated by the Edmonton Police Service.

“Not too long ago, on Friday and Saturday nights our holding cells were full of individuals who had various level of intoxication that we had to provide care for,” said Supt. David Veitch at an event celebrating the program’s early success Wednesday.

“We would bring in real bad guys, for robberies and dealing drugs, and we had no place to put them. So this idea of diversion is very important in getting [people] to places of safety so those individuals who are more able to deal with them appropriately can.”

Harding says the benefits to society are undeniable, but adds the need still far outweighs the team’s ability to intervene in all possible crises.

“I think we’re on the right trajectory, the collaboration as a whole has been really successful doing what it has been mandated to do and achieving our goals,” said Harding. “At the end of the day, if the city of Edmonton, average citizens, started to call 211 and press three, in no time would we probably need more teams to take care of the need that is out there.

I think we’re right now standing in the gap, but it’s also our role to advocate [for more social supports] so there can be some change within the system and in resources.”

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