The Manitoba government is investing more than $450,000 from the Federal Proceeds of Crime Fund to expand and maintain the use of a new tool that improves responses to people in crisis and reduces the risk of harm, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen announced today.
“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.”
The minister noted the funding supports RCMP detachments across the province as they install the evidence-based risk assessment tool in patrol cars and mobile devices. When police respond to a call and find a person in a mental health crisis, the tool helps them determine the most appropriate response based on their observations and an assessment of the potential risks.
“The HealthIM tool ensures police are centered on the person in crisis and determining a pathway that best supports their needs,” said Deputy Chief Gord Perrier, Winnipeg Police Service. “Data accountability within the program provides real-time insight that assists in whole system alignment that improves outcomes and overall patient care.”
Manitoba will be the first province in Canada to expand this mental health tool across the province.
“Every day, our officers across Manitoba strive to make the communities they serve safer and to help those in need. In several communities, RCMP members have been utilizing HealthlM during encounters with individuals in crisis,” said Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy, commanding officer for the Manitoba RCMP. “HealthIM provides valuable insights to our members when they are attempting to de-escalate volatile situations. This additional funding will ensure that more of our officers will have access to HealthIM to help them better handle these difficult calls for service.”
In lower-risk situations, the HealthIM assessment might allow the person to work with the officer to co-ordinate a referral to a local mental health agency, which would receive a copy of the officer’s assessment and then assign a worker to followup. In higher-risk situations, the tool will help officers determine an approach to safely reduce the likelihood the person will harm themselves or others. Officers will also be able to see if the person has had a prior mental health crisis involving a police response.
HealthIM receivers have also been installed in local emergency rooms, nursing stations and community mental health agencies to support secure information sharing.
“The Manitoba government’s renewed commitment to HealthIM will continue to ensure effective use of police and health resources across our jurisdictions,” said Chief Wayne Balcaen, Brandon Police Service. “As a result, individuals in mental health crisis are receiving the best treatment available, while officers are spending less wait time in hospitals.”
The minister noted that this investment is on top of recent provincial investments in mental health and addictions supports. The initiatives address a number of recent recommendations made in the in the Virgo report and support recommendations made by other organizations such as the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth, Tracia’s Trust and the Illicit Drug Task Force.
To date, more than $39.8 million has been invested in 22 initiatives to improve mental health and addictions services throughout the province. These investments help ensure better outcomes for people in mental health crisis, manage the demands placed on police officers and ensure appropriate support is provided when and where it is needed, the minister noted.
In all, the Manitoba government has committed more than $750,000 to ensure police officers across the province can access HealthIM.
Between July 2019 and June 2020, Health IM was used 4,087 times, and in 28.5 per cent of cases, the person remained in the community and did not require hospitalization or other urgent interventions. In the same time period, Manitoba has seen a 57.5 per cent decrease in apprehension rates and a 68 per cent decrease in average hospital wait times. This ensures officers can spend more time in the community doing active police work, and less time transporting or waiting with individuals in hospital.
HealthIM is an Ontario-based company, and its software and other tools have been used to help municipal police agencies respond more effectively in these types of situations since 2013.
The minister noted today’s announcement was made possible through the Federal Proceeds of Crime Fund, maintained by Manitoba’s Criminal Property Forfeiture Branch. Manitoba allocates funds forfeited from federally prosecuted Criminal Code offences to activities related to crime prevention including victim services, law enforcement and community initiatives such as drug prevention education. More information about criminal property forfeiture is available at www.gov.mb.ca/justice/commsafe/cpf/disbursement.html.
Manitoba’s Policing and Public Safety Strategy, announced in May 2019, identified the need to reduce extraneous demands on police, recognizing mental health challenges are often better addressed by other professionals. This tool helps ensure that police better understand what mental health services an individual in crisis needs.
Manitoba’s Policing and Public Safety Strategy is available online at:
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