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

Drawing inspiration from the successful model employed by FOCUS Toronto, ATC convenes weekly to address cases of elevated risk in the community. Thirty agencies representing justice, social services, health care, education, government, child and youth services, seniors support, newcomer services, mental health, addictions, and housing review complex cases and coordinate community supports. At each table, agencies collaborate to identify suitable services, agree on interventions, and create immediate action plans to reduce risk for individuals or families.

“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 at 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.”

The need for initiatives like ATC was underscored by the 2020 PolicyWise for Children & Families and the Centre for Suicide Prevention report, Transforming Calgary’s Crisis Response System, which highlighted the 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 the quality of care. ATC represents a significant 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 at 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.” 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 percent of cases to the table but were involved in fewer than 10 percent of the interventions. Coordinating complex crisis response across community organizations allows for a more efficient use of resources, ensuring that individuals and families receive the right interventions at the right time.

“In Toronto, there was a 68.75 percent 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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