Manitoba is investing over $310,000 in a new tool that will allow nine police agencies to improve how they respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis, with the goal of de-escalating potentially dangerous situations, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen announced today.
“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. This tool will help them determine risk and the most appropriate next steps so they can focus on protecting our communities from serious crimes,” said Cullen. “In some cases, this might mean ensuring someone who is going through a mental health crisis is connected with a community service agency instead of taking them into custody or an emergency room. In other situations, the assessment will help officers recognize when someone is a risk to themselves or others so a more immediate intervention can be made.”
With this funding, the Winnipeg Police Service, Brandon Police Service, Manitoba First Nations Police Service, Ste. Anne Police Department, Winkler Police Service, Altona Police Service, Morden Police Service, Rivers Police Department and RCMP detachments in Steinbach, Thompson and Portage la Prairie will install an evidence-based risk assessment tool called HealthIM in patrol cars and on other mobile devices. When police respond to a call and find a person in a mental health crisis, the tool will help them determine the most appropriate response based on their observations and an assessment of the potential risks.
“This project is about having tools for the front lines that improve communication, enhance our connected services and ultimately improve outcomes for citizens,” said Deputy Chief Gord Perrier, Winnipeg Police Service. “Managing a crisis is difficult and each situation has different needs. Ensuring appropriate connection, intervention and or care that fits each individual is our goal.”
In lower-risk situations, the HealthIM assessment might result in the officer working with the person 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 would help the officer determine an approach to take the person into custody, reducing the likelihood they harm themselves or others. Officers will also be able to see if the person has had a mental health crisis involving a police response before.
HealthIM receivers will also be installed in local emergency rooms, nursing stations and community mental health agencies to support secure information sharing. This will also help reduce the amount of time police officers spend with people in emergency departments as they are triaged.
All participating police agencies expect to have the HealthIM tool in place this year.
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 more than $1.4 million will be distributed this year through the Criminal Property Forfeiture Fund. Since its inception, approximately $19 million in assets have been successfully forfeited to Manitoba through criminal property forfeitures. For more information about criminal property forfeiture, visit www.gov.mb.ca/justice/safe/cpf/index.html.