A little over a year since its official launch, the Assertive Outreach Team (AOT) has won a prominent award for being an innovative, breakthrough program that provides outreach support to people with addictions and mental health issues who are routine offenders.
Thanks to the work of this integrated team, the number of Mental Health Act apprehensions by the VPD for the clients attached to the program has been reduced by half and visits to Emergency Departments have dropped by 99 per cent.
The prestigious international Webber Seavey award is presented to an organization that has raised the standard of quality in law enforcement and focuses on continual improvement of services to local communities. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
shortlisted ten agencies from around the world and the AOT’s innovative intervention model won overall. Other organizations worldwide will learn about AOT’s program through a series of special publications presented in various IAPC channels.
The AOT was created just over a year ago to meet the needs of individuals with addictions and/or complex mental health conditions who are also identified as high-risk to offend. The program provides approximately 28 days of intensive outreach support to clients where the team creates a customized care treatment plan and ensures each client receives supports and long-term treatment.
Already, more than 400 people have been cared for through the program and local law enforcement has experienced a 41 per cent reduction in negative police involvements in addition to a 56 per cent reduction in violent offences for these individuals.
On September 25, Inspector Howard Tran with the VPD; Andrew MacFarlane, Regional Director of Mental Health and Addictions Services; and Dr Vijay Seethapathy, psychiatrist and team physician leader, accepted the Award of Merit on behalf of Project Link, the oversight partnership that provides leadership to integrated programs such as the AOT as well as the Assertive Case Management (ACT) Teams and Mental Health Emergency Services (MHES) at the Dr. Nancy Hall Public Policy Leadership Awards
. These awards are held annually as part of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Annual General Meeting
. The award recognizes a BC organization that has influenced mental health policy and contributed to positive mental health development.
A $500 gift was included in the Nancy Hall award, which AOT donated to the Ride Don’t Hide fund
, a national bike ride with the goal of raising awareness and funds toward mental health programs.
“Both these awards recognize the leadership and vision of VCH and VPD in creating a collaborative model encompassing both police and outreach workers. The substantial results of these programs have far surpassed our expectations, such as reduced ED visits and acute length of stays, improved housing stability, as well as criminal justice outcomes,” said MacFarlane. “Kudos to George Scotton, Dr Seethapathy and the whole ACT and AOT Teams for their great work in taking this vision and implementing it in such a powerful way in the community.”