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New tool to help Manitoba police help those in a mental health crisis

Winnipeg Police Service Deputy Chief Gord Perrier speaks to media Monday, Oct. 1, 2018.
Winnipeg Police Service Deputy Chief Gord Perrier speaks to media Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. Nikki Jhutti/Global News

The province is investing more than $310,000 in a new tool to help police agencies improve how they respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Called HealthIM, the evidence-based risk assessment tool helps officers determine the best response based on observations and potential risks.

“We value the work our police agencies do every day to keep us safe and we believe strongly that our front-line officers should be on the street fighting crime,” Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said. “This tool will help them determine risk and the most appropriate next steps so they can focus on protecting our communities from serious crimes.”

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The funding is coming from the Criminal Property Forfeiture Fund, which sits at $1.4 million.

In low-risk situations, the tool could coordinate a referral to a local mental health agency.

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When the risk is higher, HealthIM could determine what approach an officer should take, to help reduce the likelihood of harm to themselves and others.

Nine police agencies will be installing HealthIM in patrol cars and on mobile devices, including police services in Winnipeg, Brandon, Ste. Anne, Winkler, Altona, Morden, Rivers, Steinbach, Thompson and Portage la Prairie, along with the Manitoba First Nations Police Service.

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HealthIM receivers will also be installed in local emergency rooms, nursing stations and community mental health agencies to support secure information sharing.

Cullen said the tool will also help reduce the amount of time police officers spend with people in emergency departments as they are triaged.

The nine police agencies expect to have the HealthIM tool in place later this year.