The provincial government has announced that there are plans to use a phased approach over the next year with regard to the digital tool HealthIM for law enforcement. The HealthIM system equips police officers with information to better assess the needs of a person experiencing a mental health emergency when police respond to calls for service.
"It's important to recognize that police are not mental health professionals and may not be the best equipped to handle mental health emergencies or crises. People who are in the middle of a mental health crisis present some of the most unpredictable situations that a police officer may face," said Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, Tyler Shandro.
Shandro underlined that mental health crisis calls that police respond to require different tactics.
"That's why it's important for police to have access to as much information about the individuals in question before they respond to a crisis. It's an invaluable tool that we hope will lead to better outcomes for law enforcement here in Alberta, who will have more time then to focus on crime and law enforcement issues."
The HealthIM application will provide police details such as a person's weapons history, details of any past encounters with police, and particular psychological triggers.
"The [HealthIM] platform cannot only help please peacefully de-escalate a situation but also determine whether they [the police] should convey the individual to a designated facility or if they would better serve their needs to connect them with community mental health resources."
Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Mike Ellis said that Albertans don't have to choose between treating mental health and addiction and community safety, rather both are inclusive of the other.
"Police must be an integral part of the recovery-oriented system of care we’re building and we’re supporting them to do so," he said. "When police are called to intervene, HealthIM will provide them with the tools and information they need to keep everyone safe and improves outcomes for those in crisis."
Beginning in July, the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) will be the first service in Alberta to start using HealthIM. The 2022 provincial budget allocated $1.6 million to continue the provincial rollout of HealthIM.
When using HealthIM, police services will have access to a pre-response safety briefing that includes de-escalation techniques and access to any previously known police information about the person in crisis, as well as inter-agency communication that supports information sharing with health facilities and community-based services, which expedites the transfer of care.
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