|The Vancouver Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team was created in 2011 to provide better care to those who suffer from significant mental illness and substance abuse problems and are frequent users of emergency services. The ACT service delivery model focuses on community treatment and rehabilitation. In 2012, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) became part of the Vancouver ACT Team. ACT is a multidisciplinary team of 10–12 service providers, including psychiatrists, nurses and addiction counsellors. The involvement of the police department on the Vancouver team is particularly innovative because ACT Teams do not usually include police agencies.
|The main objective of the ACT Team is to keep clients out of the hospital and away from the criminal justice system, reducing the number of contacts between police and severely addicted clients with mental health issues. The ACT program is intended to reduce the drain on emergency resources caused by untreated mental illness.
|Anecdotal observation suggests that the vast majority of ACT clients experience improved quality of life. A recent sampling of 32 ACT Team clients showed that negative police contacts were down by 50% compared to one year prior to intake. This study cohort also experienced a 23% reduction in victimization and 70% reduction in non-urgent emergency department visits.
|Three ACT Teams currently work in Vancouver and there are plans to create two more teams in 2014. Each team is estimated to cost between $1.4 and $1.6 million, including housing subsidies. This does not include the in-kind services provided by the VPD.
In October 2012, the VPD formalized its Mental Health Unit, which has a mandate to work with the regional health authority, Vancouver Coastal Health, and lead the department’s efforts in dealing with Vancouver clients who are mentally ill. Total staff costs for the unit are estimated at $400,000 per year.
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