The Manitoba government says it wants to put a tool designed to help police better deal with people in crisis and mental distress into the hands of more officers across the province.
Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said Thursday the province will spend more than $450,000 collected through the Federal Proceeds of Crime Fund to bring HealthIM to all Manitoba RCMP detachments.
Installed in patrol cars and smartphones, HealthIM helps police determine the appropriate response when dealing with a person who appears to be in a mental health crisis.
“Law enforcement officers are often the first line of response to emergency mental health crisis situations and the HealthIM system provides an effective, evidence-based tool to help improve crisis outcomes and ensure people are referred to appropriate resources in their communities,” said Cullen.
“This system supports a more empathetic and evidence-based response to citizens suffering from unmanaged mental health challenges and protects the public, medical staff and the person in crisis.”
Cullen said Manitoba is the first in Canada to expand HealthIM to forces province-wide.
The tool is already used by several police forces in Manitoba, including in Winnipeg and Brandon, and some Manitoba RCMP detachments.
Cullen said the plan is to now have the tool available to all Manitoba RCMP officers.
The province said the tool helps police determine the most appropriate response based on their observations and an assessment of potential risks when responding to a person in a mental health crisis.
In low-risk situations, the tool could co-ordinate a referral to a local mental health agency.
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.
Officers can also see if the person has had a prior mental health crisis during a police response.
Information from the police assessment is later sent electronically to health agencies which receive the person in crisis.
The province says HealthIM receivers have also been installed in local emergency rooms, nursing stations and community health agencies to make secure information-sharing easier.
“The HealthIM tool ensures police are centered on the person in crisis and determining a pathway that best supports their needs,” WPS Deputy Chief Gord Perrier said in a provincial release.
“Data accountability within the program provides real-time insight that assists in whole system alignment that improves outcomes and overall patient care.”
According to provincial numbers, HealthIM was used 4,087 times between July 2019 and June 2020.
During the same period, apprehension rates decreased by more than 57 per cent, the province said.
HealthIM was first introduced to Manitoba police forces in the fall of 2018.
To date, the province says it’s spent more than $750,000 to bring the tool to police in Manitoba.
–With files from the Canadian Press