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New mental health assessment tool reducing involuntarily hospital trips: Brandon police

Brandon Police say a new program used by officers helping people with mental health challenges find treatment outside of hospital ERs.
Brandon Police say a new program used by officers helping people with mental health challenges find treatment outside of hospital ERs. File Photo

Police in Brandon, Man. say a new tool designed to help officers deal with people suffering from mental health challenges is showing early positive results for the force.

The tool, called HealthIM, was added to officer’s smartphones in July, and has been used nearly 100 times since then to help police de-escalate situations with people in crisis.

“The effective and efficient design of HealthIM has allowed our front line officers to spend more time completing core policing functions and less time at the Regional Health Centre,” said BPS Chief, Wayne Balcaen, in a release Thursday.

“More importantly, the clients that we are serving are receiving timely and appropriate levels of care based on their individually identified needs while experiencing a mental health crisis.”

Brandon police are among the first agencies in Canada to start using the system, which allows officers to access safety information when responding to a mental health call.

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The program guides officers through a clinical risk assessment to determine if the person needs to be involuntarily brought to hospital.

It also alerts emergency department staff to the incoming patient, if hospitalization is recommended.

“Using HealthIM gives the BRHC Emergency Department advance notice of a patient’s arrival, enabling staff to mobilize for timely treatment,” said Prairie Mountain Health CEO Penny Gilson, in the release.

“This initiative assists with providing more appropriate care, treatment and referrals, which is better for patients overall.”

Police say calls requiring trips to the hospital have fallen by nearly 50 per cent since the force started using HealthIM, and for calls that do lead to hospitalization, officers now spend just over an hour escorting the patient, as opposed to the three-to-five-hours they were averaging before July.

Provincial funding for Brandon police to adopt HealthIM was announced in the fall of 2018 through Manitoba’s Criminal Property Forfeiture Fund.

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