06/10/2014 07:37 EDT | Updated 08/10/2014 05:59 EDT

Accord officials say fewer drunk people being sent to police cells in Saskatoon

SASKATOON - Proponents of a partnership say it is making significant progress in directing people in custody due to intoxication to the proper facilities in Saskatoon.

The Saskatoon Action Accord started in July 2011 and involves the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners, Saskatoon Tribal Council, Saskatoon Health Region, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and Saskatoon police.

Members of the accord said Tuesday that the number of people in detention due to intoxication who are being directed to police cells was reduced to 50 per cent from 80 per cent in 2013.

Tracy Muggli, director of mental health and addiction services with the health region, says the brief detox unit and The Lighthouse, an emergency shelter and supportive living facility, are still turning people away on any given night but the situation has greatly improved.

In July 2013, The Lighthouse added 20 brief detox beds, and Muggli says the plan is to increase it to 38 beds, while the brief detox unit has 12 beds.

Muggli adds permanent funding for a paramedic at police cells for 12 hours per day is also helping to improve services.

“The purpose is to ensure that people who are in the detention cells who are intoxicated are getting the care that they need and if they’re running into any medical concerns that they have a paramedic on site to be able to assess and potentially triage if necessary," Muggli said.

Police chief Clive Weighill said the service is pleased to see the big shift to the use of appropriate facilities for people who are drunk in public.

“The traditional use of police service cells was one of necessity, not one of choice," he said.

"The addition of the Lighthouse Emergency Shelter in 2013 provided the capacity we needed to better enable us to provide emergency shelter to people with dignity and access to ‘next day’ services.”

Last year, an inquest jury who examined the death of man in Saskatoon police cells recommended there be more beds at the brief detox unit.

Stanley Robillard was arrested for public intoxication after falling backwards and hitting his head outside a Saskatoon bar on July 15, 2010. The next morning, the 46-year-old heavy equipment operator from the Muskoday First Nation was found unresponsive in a police detention cell.