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ARCC program having difficulty hiring

A provincial program aimed at helping people in crisis is struggling to find staff.

The Alternative Response to Citizens in Crisis (ARCC) program was launched in December 2021, creating two-person response teams to help those experiencing mental health crisis on Winnipeg streets.

ARCC pairs a plainclothes police officer with a certified clinician to respond to mental health and addictions calls. Since its inception, the program has responded to 882 incidents involving 530 people.

Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said ARCC has been very effective so far, freeing up valuable emergency service resources. 

"Without the clinician, we'd be forced to go in through the emergency room of hospitals and that's not the way we want to do that," Smyth said. "It ties up our resources and it ties up the ER."

In June, the provincial government announced the ARCC program would be expanding from five to seven days a week. However, a lack of those clinicians in Manitoba has stalled the province from extending the initiative into weekends.

The police service says it's hoping to add two clinician positions. On Friday, the police board heard that expansion has not happened yet because of a lack of candidates.

"Well it's the age old problem we're seeing throughout many departments in the City of Winnipeg, human resources being a challenge," said police board chair Markus Chambers.

"Clinicians in general they're short all over the place," said Smyth.

Mental health advocates say it's imperative that services like ARCC are available around the clock, seven days a week.

"It's often in the evenings and on the weekends and over the night where people are experiencing higher levels of distress and there's less resources available," said Marion Cooper with the Canadian Mental Health Association.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Shared Health Manitoba said the hiring process is moving ahead in a normal fashion, with both internal and external job postings.

 “We are optimistic these open positions will be filled relatively soon,” said the statement.

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