Social Diversion Team

If you are concerned for the wellbeing of someone who is experiencing homelessness, mental health challenges or substance abuse challenges, and they are not posing an immediate harm to themselves or others, call 2-1-1 then Press 2.
The right response at the right time 2-1-1 and press 2 to call the Social Diversion Team

The Social Diversion team consists of specially-trained professionals that can provide front line assessment, intervention and support. They can connect people in crisis with the social services they need, such as housing supports, mental health supports, detox programs and harm reduction resources.

When Should I call the Social Diversion Team (2-1-1 & Press 2)?

If you see someone who is:

  • Experiencing a mental health or medical (non-emergency) crisis
  • Intoxicated or otherwise impaired
  • Requiring transport to appropriate services (i.e. a shelter)
  • Sleeping in an unsafe space and/or inappropriately dressed for the weather
  • Requiring social services (i.e. housing, nutrition, health or community supports)
  • Likely to come to harm without intervention

And the individual is not posing an immediate harm to themselves or others, call 2-1-1 and press 2.

As this is a pilot project, the team's hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. However, the 2-1-1 line is operated 24/7. Outside of the Social Diversion team operating hours, callers will be provided with either a community referral, crisis intervention support, connected to 911 or non-emergency line, or offered a follow-up.

What is Social Diversion?
  • In the Red Deer context, social diversion refers to the creation of a delivery model for at-risk, high-need individuals that, in a time of crisis, require an intervention-based non-emergency response. The needs of individuals are often directly related to mental health, addictions and housing-related challenges.
  • The primary objective of social diversion is to respond to people in Red Deer who are exhibiting distress and freeing up both law enforcement and medical responders to focus on emergency situations.
  • The Social Diversion team delivers an integrated community response to non-emergency crisis situations, providing the public with a resource to call.
Who is the Social Diversion Team (SDT)?
  • The Social Diversion team consists of specially-trained professionals that can provide front line assessment, intervention and support. The Social Diversion Team can connect people in crisis with the social services they need, such as housing supports, mental health supports, detox programs and harm reduction resources.
  • Currently, the Social Diversion Team consists of two teams of two individuals: one Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and a Social Diversion Specialist. These two individuals are provided by SafeHarbour, as contracted by The City of Red Deer.
    • The team will operate 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. (at the onset). These hours were determined based on call volume data and could be adjusted.
  • 2-1-1 will dispatch the team, as contracted by The City of Red Deer.
    • An agent will assess the caller’s information to ensure the right resource is dispatched.
    • Outside of the Social Diversion Team operating hours, callers will be provided either a community referral, crisis intervention support, connected to 911 or non-emergency line, or offered a follow-up.
How does the SDT work?
  • SDT will work with the individual to assess their needs. Some of the potential outcomes may be:
    • Transporting to a partner organization that can provide clothing, blankets, meals, personal care items, etc
    • Providing supportive conversation, warm transfers to appropriate services.
    • Providing First Aid or connection to harm reduction supplies.
    • Providing connection to culturally appropriate supports.
Who will call the SDT?
  • 1st Party Callers: those looking for support for themselves (i.e. emotional, mental or physical distress, addictions challenges, or housing/nutrition-related challenges)
  • 3rd Party Callers: those looking for support for family or friends, or a concerned citizen looking for support for a stranger.
  • Emergency responders: looking to divert or hand over an event when the SDT is the more suitable responding agency. (i.e.: officer providing a warm hand-off to SDT to support individual with transportation, emotional support, etc.)
How was the SDT created?
  • Social Diversion was one of the top local priorities identified during 2019 Community Safety Summit workshops, led by the Systems Leadership Team.
  • In the summer of 2020, the Systems Leadership Team submitted a letter for City Council’s consideration, recommending The City fund approximately $525,235 as one-time funding. This will allow for a one-year trial of Red Deer’s social diversion service delivery model. Its impact will be monitored and reported back to Council and the community.
How will the team help improve community safety?
  • This investment in street-level response aims to reduce law enforcement and medical emergency response, including a reduction in calls to 9-1-1.
  • Social diversion will provide support to concerned citizens and business owners, contributing to a continuum of supports for community safety.
  • The team will provide service to at-risk, high-need individuals that, in a time of crisis, require an intervention-based, non-emergency response. The team’s specialized training allows them to evaluate and connect clients to the social resources that best respond to their needs.
  • This service model has had great success in other communities facing similar social issues.
Who is the Systems Leadership Team (SLT)?
  • In 2016, City Council adopted the Community Safety Strategy which identified the need for a central model to bring the major government “systems” together to help stimulate and drive change in Red Deer related to community safety. This led to the formation of the System Leadership Team (SLT), which has been operational since 2017.
  • The SLT includes: City of Red Deer administration, Red Deer RCMP, Urban Aboriginal Voices Society, Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools, Red Deer Public Schools, Alberta Justice Red Deer, Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General, Red Deer College, Central Region Ministry of Children’s Services, Alberta Health Services Central Zone, and Alberta Works Red Deer.
Community & Partner Feedback

The impact to our partners & businesses: Quotes

“As a member of the downtown community there was comfort in the quick response times when calling 211 for assistance. We are not professionally trained in how to handle these unique situations and could rely on the Safe Harbour team to remove any individuals in need of assistance.” – Jamie Sprovieri, Campus Director, CDI College Red Deer

“The location of my business being downtown instances have occurred where there has been an issue with someone doing something unsafe to themselves or others and being able to use the 211 resource has been so effective. Knowing there was a resource in my City that allowed for the right people with the right skills and attitude to help those in a compromising situation is so effective. The team is quick to respond when there is an issue and always seems to have the right advice on how to deal with each unique situation. When needed they have always been there to help and often even follow up to ensure we felt safe, satisfied with the outcome and to inform us on how they can help in the future. I believe this program has been an excellent resource for our City and so appreciate what they do. As a business we have treated them with our products as often as we can because the job they have is hard and they need to be appreciated. Thank you to the Social Diversion Team as they are working everyday to make Red Deer a safer place to work and live and provide such a wonderful resource to our community in need.” – Taneen Ryan, Owner of Cakes & Doe

The Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre (CASASC) is a not-for-profit that is committed to ending the culture of sexual violence and helping to build safer communities for all Central Albertans through promoting awareness and healing, education, empowerment and renewal. In this, we work with individuals of all walks of life who are affected by sexual violence. We have two offices located in the downtown core of Red Deer. A few weeks back, at one of our downtown offices we had a visit from an individual who was wishing to access our services. While in our office waiting area, the individual became incapacitated and wasn’t able to complete any further steps towards accessing our services. Knowing about the Social Diversion Team that operates in Red Deer, we were able to call 211 and request this team to respond to assist this individual. We appreciated the option to call this team, as we are a trauma-informed agency and felt that police or other emergency response teams were not the right fit in this situation. The Social Diversion Team arrived promptly after being dispatched. They kindly and compassionately conversed with this individual, and not too long after, were able to offer him a ride to wherever he wanted to go. He was told he was welcome back at our office on a different day to complete his paperwork. The responders of the Social Diversion Team were kind, caring professionals who promoted a calming presence. We so appreciate their compassionate response and assistance in our office that day. – Sarah Maetche, Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre

“The team has been a welcomed resource by the Red Deer RCMP. We are seeing a reduction in non-emergency calls we are dispatched to and also have a resource to call upon when we attend a call that we know may be better suited for the Social Diversion Team. This resource has enhanced our ability to focus on other crime reduction strategies to decrease social disorder in Red Deer.” – Insp. Holly Glassford, Red Deer RCMP

“Many people don’t realize that Red Deer’s EMS personnel provide advanced Life Support and are also fully-trained firefighters, so these highly-trained professionals are a very valuable resource. When the social diversion team responds to a non-emergency call, they play a critical role in freeing up our EMS resources to respond to other critical medical emergencies and fires.” – Acting Chief Tyler Pelke, Red Deer Emergency Services

“We got called for an individual sleeping on the grass beside an apartment building. People were too scared to go up to him to see if he was okay. I think he had something ‘on board’ but checked out alright and did not want to go to the hospital. We called the SDT and they came quickly. They spoke to the guy, and took him, his bike, and the rest of his belongings. They were extremely helpful, kind and understanding that he did not need EMS, but did need some form of assistance. I would highly recommend that they continue this service. It would be more beneficial if there was 24/7 support.” – Frontline RDES employee

“I’ve had multiple experiences with the Social Diversion Team. All of them were positive, as we were able to help out our vulnerable populations who didn’t necessarily need to go to the hospital. The SDT was able to respond and take the individuals to the warming shelters, safe injection site, or mats program which I believe helped ease the strain on our healthcare system.” – Frontline RDES employee

“The Social Diversion Team provides a trauma-informed, timely response to those in need, and we certainly see the value it has had to our citizens, businesses, community agencies as well as to our Municipal Policing Services. Our call takers have found diverting calls for law-enforcement response over to the Social Diversion Team very effective and successful.” – Bart Rowland, Manager, Municipal Policing Services