EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Police Service saw a jump in urgent mental health calls in the last year.

Between March 2019 and March 2020, EPS's Police and Crisis Teams (PACT) responded to 61 per cent more calls.

"Being able to get a mental health therapist to the scene safely and allowing them to do what they do best, you can't beat that," Sgt. Jacob Montgomery told CTV News Edmonton. "They’ve absolutely saved lives out there.”

PACT is a partnership between EPS and Alberta Health Services. An EPS constable is partnered with a mental health specialist and together, they provide assessments and intervention for people in crisis.

They can also consult with and support frontline officers over the phone.

EPS has eight PACT teams, providing 24-hour coverage with two teams available at all times.

“Our Police and Crisis Teams have made an impact on mental health and crisis complaints in the community," Montgomery said. "It is reassuring to know that we have a mental health professional guiding us in terms of how best to offer supports to the individual."

He said PACT is receiving a lot of calls recently that are related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stressors include social isolation, paranoia about the pandemic and stress around the economic downturn.

The Alberta government announced new funding for mental health initiatives Wednesday.

PACT was not specifically included in the new funding, but a spokesperson tells CTV News that they expect the investment in Albertans' mental health will have a positive impact.

PACT began under a grant in 2004 and has been included in the EPS budget since 2006.

Anyone who needs mental health support can call the AHS distress line seven days a week, 24 hours a day at 780-424-2424. Call 911 if there is a safety risk or someone is in imminent danger, Montgomery said.

If there's less risk, but you still need a police response, call the EPS complaint line at 780-423-4567. 

WIth files from CTV News Edmonton's David Ewasuk.