A new digital tool is funded by the province to help with police interactions when responding to mental health emergencies.
The Alberta government announced more than $789,000 in funding to implement the new tool, called HealthIM, which provides police officers with onsite tools and information needed to improve safety for everyone at the incident.
The tool is designed to help assess whether a person needs to be transported to a designated facility for evaluation and connect them to community service providers if further intervention is not necessary.
“During a mental health emergency, police intervention can be a difficult experience for both the individual and the law enforcement officers involved,” said Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan.
“Funding to implement the HealthIM system in Alberta will support the health and well-being of Albertans while interacting with police as well as equipping our first responders with the tools they need to perform recovery-oriented interventions.”
The HealthIM system includes:
- Pre-response safety briefing that includes de-escalation techniques and access to any previously known police information about the person in crisis.
- Mental health risk screener that helps officers determine whether transportation under the Mental Health Actto a designated health facility is warranted or if community-based services are more appropriate.
- Inter-agency communication that supports information sharing with health facilities and community-based services, which expedites the transfer of care.
- Reporting and analytics to assist with evidence-based decision-making.
Initially implemented in Edmonton, the Edmonton Police Service will be the first to fully implement it. The grant will cover the coordination of provincial rollout of the platform including coordination with health services locally and provincially.
“From the patient’s perspective, mental health apprehension and transport to hospital by police services can be traumatic and stigmatizing,” said Alberta health and mental health patient advocate Janice Harrington.
“Experience in other provinces has shown this kind of tool can reduce those apprehensions and potentially provide quicker access to appropriate community programs.”
Other provinces such as Manitoba have demonstrated that HealthIM contributes to reductions in involuntary arrests and police resources as well as an increase in overall savings, while ensuring people in crisis get the help they need.