A Saskatoon group which patrols and helps people in need is offering a new service: wellness checks.

The Okihtcitawak Patrol Group patrols the Saskatoon neighbourhoods of Pleasant Hill and Riversdale. They help community members by being present in the neighbourhood, finding a bed for people sleeping outside, giving people resources if they need help, and now by conducting wellness checks.

Delano Kennedy, the group’s team lead, said they decided to add the service after an incident last week where a video emerged of a Saskatoon Police Officer repeatedly striking a man while trying to arrest him. The officer was allegedly conducting a wellness check.

Kennedy said he thinks it’s necessary for groups with mental health training to do these checks.

“I think that people who are trained with mental health or have that background in mental health and addictions should be able to de-escalate certain situations such as wellness checks.”

When the group provides wellness checks, Kennedy said they’re dependent on what the client says they need.

“It’s mostly like introducing myself, asking if they have a problem or if they need any assistance,” Kennedy said. “It really depends on what the person needs. And being able to talk with them, connect with them and if they need any services, I’ll be able to assist them as best as I can.”

The group began in Saskatoon in 2017.

Kennedy said he hopes other Indigenous youth in other communities set a group like theirs in their own community.

“I encourage any Indigenous people, and the youth, to take that initiative, whatever that may be depending on the needs of their community,” Kennedy said, “I really encourage them to do that because this patrol group actually started with a group of friends who wanted to volunteer their own time.”

(Photo courtesy of the Okihtcitawak Patrol Group Facebook page.)