Saskatoon’s Board of Police Commissioners has officially requested the city’s Police Service to broaden its understanding of individuals under their jurisdiction who aren’t sufficiently supported by current social services. According to Police Chief Troy Cooper, these individuals possess their own unique set of “complex needs” owing to mental health problems and substance use disorders.
This distinct subpopulation, Chief Cooper explains, struggles immensely due to their inability to function within the capabilities of available resources. Owing to their disruptive behavior or severe intoxication, smoothly integrating them into conventional support programs poses a steady challenge, as they require stabilization to an optimal degree.
The plight of these individuals not only generates disturbance calls but also necessitates frequent detentions, subsequently leading to repeated entries and exits from police custody. Lamentably, upon release, they often find themselves without the requisite structures of support.
There exists a persistently present core group of people who find themselves in continuous contact with the police, primarily due to their intricate needs as well as the sheer lack of alternatives available to them, Chief Cooper communicated with the board. One sobering instance highlighted an individual who was held in detention as many as 140 times within the course of a single year.
Statistics from the previous year show that 79 people were detained for ten nights or more, while an alarming count of 397 were held in custody for five nights or more. Shedding light on this concern, Mayor Charlie Clark has proposed a considerate step towards comprehending these individuals more deeply. An in-depth investigation to understand their situations better is intended to pave the way to a suitable solution.
Speaking at a board meeting, Clark shared, “I engage in conversations with a number of individuals and have been informed of a myriad of reasons leading people to Saskatoon.” Some are refused entry in their own communities, others may have service providers from different cities driving them down in the absence of resources in their hometowns. A third category comprises those who have recently been discharged from prison.
In response to such pressing issues, the board urged the province’s administration to provide support in establishing specialized facilities designed specifically for those with complex needs.
The government’s reply letter makes mention of existing funding allocated for programs aimed at helping individuals grappling with homelessness, mental health issues, and substance abuse. “We recognize and respect your concerns, and we share your commitment to finding solutions. We are eager to keep working together on this critical issue,” the letter concluded. Signed by both the Minister of Social Services and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, these words should go some way towards assuaging worries.