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City councillor pushing for more social workers as part of emergency response

Grande Prairie city councillor Dylan Bressey is pushing his colleagues to take a closer look at adding more social and healthcare workers to the front lines of emergency response. The ask for potentially more funding for social services comes in the shadow of a pair of pilot programs launching in the city.

The pilots include the Mobile Outreach Program, which partners an enforcement officer and an outreach worker together in the hopes of offering more immediate help to citizens with concerns. They will have a roving presence in the public 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

Bressey says sometimes the police are needed in these situations, but for them to be the only resource there is perhaps not always appropriate. He adds it’s a crucial time for finding the right balance of enforcement and social services and he hopes other levels of government be relied upon to do their part as well.

“We’ve been willing to fund more police and crisis teams where we have mental health nurses going out and responding with police officers; the challenge has always been that he provincial resources haven’t been there to come in with the health care side of things.”

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He notes he’d like to see more preventative services available for Grande Prairie residents, to try to avoid people getting to a crisis point in the first place.

“As we look at these increases [in policing], we need to ask if it’s the best place to put our money, or [should] we put it into other community intervention,” he says. “It’s not even necessarily about decreasing the RCMP budget, [but] are we going to get the best impact by increasing that budget over the next few years.”

It’s expected members of city council will debate the motion at the meeting scheduled for July 13th.

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