Strathcona County is paving the way for trauma response in communities.

A first-of-its-kind in North America, the Violence, Trauma and Suicide Prevention (VTSP) Protocol outlines steps for the county, RCMP, schools, and more to take during a community event that involves violence, trauma, or suicide. The idea behind the protocol is for all these different groups to work together, share information, properly assess the community impact and respond in the best way to support residents.

"Every resident deserves to feel safe and well. By signing the protocol, we can work with our partners in new ways to create that stronger, safer community," said county mayor Rod Frank.

The VTSP protocol takes into account the ripple effect trauma tends to have, impacting people not only directly affected but also people in the broader community who may relate or react strongly to these incidents. 

With different community groups having different information or expertise on trauma and certain people's history, the protocol will help these groups work together to proactively look for warning signs of these events and intervene in potentially dangerous situations.

"There are always signs and symptoms when somebody is suffering a trauma in whatever form that is. Unfortunately, as police, we deal with it once it gets to a crisis. So the purpose of this protocol really is for all of the supporting organizations to come together and help that individual before we have to get to that crisis stage. If it reduces those calls for police, then that's what it's all about," said RCMP Superintendent Dale Kendall.

On Wednesday (Mar.16), representatives from Strathcona County, the RCMP, both local school divisions, Alberta Health Services, Alberta Children's Services, and 10 other organizations signed the protocol.

The VTSP protocol has been in the works for two years. According to Bree Claude, director of Family and Community Support Services, working during a pandemic and trying to make the program work with the privacy legislation were the most challenging parts.

She said it is a testimony to the passion and hard work of the people involved that the protocol is now able to launch.

"There is no silver bullet or easy answer ever, but the way through is always together and we've been really learning that together."