Media Coverage

Smartphone app helps Brandon police navigate mental health calls, connect people with resources

CBC News

March 11, 2020

It's a call police agencies across Canada get all too often — someone in mental distress threatening to harm themselves or others around them. But Brandon police say a new app available at the fingertips of front-line officers has helped more easily de-escalate situations and connect people to the most appropriate resource.

Police in the southwestern Manitoba city began using an app called HealthIM last summer. It was installed on duty-issued smartphones after the police service received provincial finding.

The app guides officers through a clinical risk assessment — a number of questions focused on the behaviours and actions of the person they have encountered. It then recommends a course of action, whether it be connecting the person with community-based resources or taking them to the hospital.

"It removes that subjectively and allows us to go through with a very clear set of definitions … which determines which threat they pose to themselves, what threat they pose to others and perhaps what the best course of action for us to take is," said Sgt. Dallas Lockhart, a street supervisor who has been with the Brandon Police Service for 24 years.

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The Brandon police’s new tool for mental health crises is cutting down hospital wait times

CTV News Winnipeg

February 13, 2020

The Brandon Police Service’s new tool for responding to mental health crises is yielding positive results for the police force, just seven months after its launch.

According to a news release, since 'HealthIM' launched in July 2019 less than half of crisis calls the cops respond to now end up involuntarily at the hospital for assessment. It also notes that of the calls that do end up at the Brandon Regional Health Centre, wait times for officer-escorted presentations have decreased from 3-5 hours, to an average of just over an hour.

“What we’re finding now is that rather than taking these individuals to triage at the hospital to see a doctor, we’re recognizing through the app that they’re able to go to other agencies to get the care that they need rather than a long hospital wait,” said Sgt. Kirby Sararas, public information officer for the Brandon Police Service.

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Port Hope police now using mental health app on cellphones

Northumberland News

January 28, 2020

PORT HOPE — Officers can now access the HealthIM mental health crisis response system by using an app on their cellphones.

Staff Sergeant Katie Andrews of the Port Hope Police Service (PHPS) said her service is one of three in Ontario that are now using it on their phones.

“Each officer will have this on their cellphone,” she said, pointing out that it has more commonly been used on desktops computers in the office and on laptops in police cruisers. “When they get to a call that requires some mental health services they can start with a new call, acute crisis or can report a search.”

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Police initiative 'saves lives'

The Intelligencer

January 16, 2020

Health IM proved its usefulness day one of its implementation.

When Belleville Police Cst. Ryan Laycoe finished his Health IM training course, he didn’t expect to be using it on the first day it launched. But on October 29 the system got its first mental health referral for what would become an invaluable law enforcement clinical screening tool.

“It is overwhelming how much mental health police and EMS deal with,” explained Laycoe.

Health IM aims to provide a service which will aid law enforcement in dealing with calls involving persons suffering from mental health issues.

“Implemented in conjunction with Quinte Health Care, Health IM is a digital platform equipping officers with on scene risk assessment tools and the ability to communicate with triage nurses in real time,” said Belleville Police Inspector Sheri Meeks. “This clinical screening tool is specifically designed for use by law enforcement and it runs on our police mobile devices. The program assists officers in determining the best environment for a person in crisis. If a trip to the emergency room is required, then the system alerts the triage nurse in advance, communicating vital mental health information and this helps the healthcare staff prepare and provide more timely treatment.”

“The program saves lives,” said Belleville Police Chief Ron Gignac.

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Forced to the frontlines of mental health: Police have become the new first responders for vulnerable Canadians

Erin Anderson - The Globe and Mail

October 26, 2019

When hospitals, social services and families are stretched too thin to help patients in distress, police step in – sometimes with harmful results. But technology and training offer ways for officers to adapt and save lives.

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One Canadian-made solution being adopted by departments across the country is a mobile program called HealthIM, which gives police a medical checklist to assess a person’s risk level for self-harm, harm to others and an inability to care for themselves. If they decide to take the person to hospital, the information is sent ahead to a waiting triage nurse, so the medical team knows to expect them and can review the police assessment of the patient.

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Delta police first in B.C. to use new tech tool for calls involving mental-health crises

Pamela Fayerman / Vancouver Sun

October 09, 2019

Delta police became the first police force in B.C. to use the HealthIM app that’s linked to the Surrey hospital’s emergency department. Police responding to calls involving a mental-health concern use a 25-question checkbox tool based on their observations of the individual. Once they input the information into the app on their mobile phones, they see a score that determines whether an individual needs to be apprehended under the Mental Health Act and taken to the ER. If the score doesn’t add up to that, then the police can link individuals to community mental-health services.

At least if you’re a member of the Delta Police, which is the first police force in British Columbia trained to use HealthIM, a new technology created to help assess individual mental health meltdowns already in use by several other police detachments across Canada.

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Health IM app allows officers to consult with health facilities

Brad Gordon - Star FM

March 07, 2019

Brandon Police officers hit the streets this week with a handheld app to assess and help those with a mental health crisis.

The Health IM app allows officers to do an on-scene risk assessment and communicate with hospital triage nurses on their iPhones.

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More Manitoba police get new technology to assess response to mental health calls

CBC News

May 13, 2019

Fewer people have been brought to hospital as a result, RCMP chief says.

More of Manitoba's police officers are getting a technological tool to help them assess whether a person is experiencing a serious mental health issue.

The province is spending an additional $200,000 to roll out HealthIM, risk-assessment software, into more RCMP detachments.

The software asks officers questions regarding intoxication, irritability, hallucinations and violence, among other details, and then offers an opinion on whether the individual requires apprehension or community-based support.

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Police program to deal with mental health calls pays off in Kawartha Lakes

Kawartha Lakes This Week

May 07, 2019

Kawartha Lakes Police Chief Mark Mitchell remembers the days when an officer who took a person suffering a mental health crisis to the hospital would have to wait for hours until the patient received medical care.

“Sometimes we’d have to go to Peterborough or Whitby and it could take as long as six hours,” the chief says.

Those days are gone.

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'Enhanced crisis response': New mental health nurse assists Smiths Falls police

Smiths Falls Record News

March 11, 2019

Police services across the country have begun to shift their attention to addressing the mental health concerns of the public they serve. The Smiths Falls Police Service (SFPS) is no different.

In January, the SFPS, in partnership with Lanark County Mental Health, brought on board a mental health nurse to assist them with calls.

Smiths Falls Police Chief Mark MacGillivray explained that having a mental health nurse within the department is helping to close the gaps between policing and mental health services, which he said he hopes will lead to better outcomes for those suffering with mental health issues within the community.

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Police/Hospital Pilot Project Starts in Portage

Portage Online

February 20, 2019

A new pilot project is being rolled out in Portage la Prairie and three other communities in Manitoba. The $310,000 program includes software that's loaded onto tablets.

"We announced last fall a project called HealthIM," says Justice Minister Cliff Cullen. "It's another tool police officers can use to make an assessment of mental health patients in the field -- what kind of risk the individual will have to either himself, others or to police."

He notes questions are displayed on the tablet to provide a readout as to how to deal with any given situation where mental health is an issue.

RCMP Inspector Jarrid St. Pierre adds the tablet issues a risking matrix of high, medium or low. With this information, he says the police officer is able to communicate directly with the Portage and District General Hospital allowing a doctor to look the data over. He notes the doctor is to determine if additional family support is needed, or another means of dealing in a case where apprehension is not required. Medium or high risk allows the doctor to triage their arrival, and communication is basically improved between police and medical staff in regard to what police officers are observing, and translate it into medical language so the person can be better assessed.

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Response team fills significant role in helping those in crisis

Kawartha Lakes This Week

November 12, 2018

Murtha explained police officers are trained, and have a special computer program in their cruisers (HealthIM) that helps them assess a person in crisis and judge when to use their powers of apprehension under the Mental Health Act.

Officers assess three criteria — whether a person is a risk to themselves, a risk to others, or is unable to care for themselves. That criteria is used to determine if a person needs to be taken to hospital for treatment.

The Community Response team is able to follow up on those calls, visiting the person who interacted with police and pointing them to the services that can help. The team works often with agencies such as Canadian Mental Health Association, A Place Called Home and Ontario Works, to name a few.

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NEW TOOL: Province invests $310K to help police respond to people suffering mental health crisis

Winnipeg Sun

October 01, 2018

Manitoba government is investing over $310,000 from the Criminal Property Forfeiture Fund 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, it was announced Monday.

“These police agencies understand that there is a need for this tool everywhere in every community to help our front-line officers, the people in crisis and the broader community”, said Justice Minister Cliff Cullen.

With the funding, police forces in Winnipeg, Brandon, Ste. Anne, Winkler, Altona, Morden and Rivers along with the Manitoba First Nations Police Service and RCMP detachments in Steinbach, Thompson and Portage la Prairie will install an evidence-based HealthIM risk assessment tool 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.

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MANITOBA TO HELP IMPROVE POLICE RESPONSES TO MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS SITUATIONS

Manitoba Government

October 01, 2018

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.

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.

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New Cornwall mental health crisis team already getting results

Cornwall Newswatch

September 05, 2018

CORNWALL – A new Cornwall police-led crisis team, focusing on freeing up police and hospital resources dealing with mental health cases, is already seeing results.

And the need is there, Cornwall police Insp. Shawna Spowart (now deputy chief-designate) highlighted to the police board Wednesday morning, with a 155 per cent jump in mental health calls in the last decade and a 65 per cent increase alone between 2016 and 2017.

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As for front-line officers, as part of an improved vulnerable sector strategy, officers are also equipped with a software called Health IM. An officer answers 33 questions on their observations on a call. It takes about five minutes and that information is relayed to the Cornwall Community Hospital in order to speed up assessment and treatment by doctors.

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Regina and Saskatoon police trial mental health app in cruisers

Regina Leader-Post

June 12, 2018

Like all police officers, Insp. Cory Lindskog has responded to many mental health crisis calls during his career — some of which he can only describe as heartbreaking.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” Lindskog said. “First of all, it’s being able to determine that this person is in crisis and needs help, and then trying to figure out what kind of help this person needs.”

Police officers in Regina and Saskatoon are using a software application called HealthIM to evaluate a person’s mental state. When patrol members arrive at a call, they use the app — which is installed on laptops in their patrol cars — to assess the risk the individual presents to himself or others.

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Smiths Falls police employ new mental health documentation tool

Smiths Falls Record News

March 16, 2018

The new screening and documentation tool works through collaboration with the Smiths Falls police, Lanark County Mental Health and the Smiths Falls location of the Perth & Smiths Falls District Hospital

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Cornwall Community Police Service investing in responses to mental health crises

Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

February 02, 2018

The number of calls to the Cornwall Community Police Service involving mental health crises has risen by an eye-popping 255 per cent over the past decade, with an increase of 27 per cent in 2016-17 – from 342 to 436.

The force is responding to this increasingly everyday part of police work by deciding to have its own in-house specialists with the advanced mental health training to respond while also working to help prevent them in the first place.

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Guelph Police use new technology to improve sharing of information on mental health calls

Guelph Today

January 31, 2018

Guelph Police are teaming up with the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Guelph General Hospital to speed up the process when dealing with calls involving mental health issues.

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System aims to help those with mental illness

Brantford Expositor

June 26, 2017

Brantford police and St. Leonard's Community Services are using a $500,000 grant to build a system to help people with mental health problems get the help they need faster.

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HealthIM a big advantage for hospital, patients

Northumberland Today

June 15, 2017

With the new HealthIM software in the hands of the Cobourg Police Service, Northumberland Hills Hospital president and chief executive officer Linda Davis is confident of improved outcomes in crisis situations that involve individuals with mental-health issues.

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Cobourg police bring technology to mental health crisis response

Northumberland News

June 06, 2017

The Cobourg Police Service now has a new tool available to them when responding to crisis calls that deal with mental health challenges.

Effective June 6, the local service will adopt the innovative new mental health crisis response system called HealthIM.

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Ontario Improving Patient Care Through Innovative Health Technologies

Government of Ontario

April 03, 2017

Ontario has committed to funding 15 innovative health technologies via grants from the new Health Technologies Fund (HTF). The grants support the development of software and mobile devices that focus on the delivery of better home and community care. These projects will undergo assessment and evaluation over the next 18 to 24 months to facilitate their success for adoption and scalability in Ontario's innovative health care system.

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How a new wave of startups are bringing law enforcement into the digital age

Canadian Business

October 13, 2016

At home and abroad, Canadian companies are using new technologies to help police forces solve cold cases and deal with 21st century threats

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“This has been a game changer"

Brantford Expositor

April 20, 2016

More people struggling with mental health issues are getting the help they need under a new community-wide collaborative approach that combines the expertise of police officers and social workers.

"This has been a game changer," Chuck Dowdall, the executive director of St. Leonard's Community Services, said Wednesday of the approach, which includes the efforts of St. Leonard's, Brantford police and the Brant Community Healthcare System and other agencies.

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Improving mental health crisis response

Two Row Times

April 27, 2016

"Brantford police have partnered with several social work and mental health agencies to develop a new collaborative community mental health response strategy called the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team (MCRRT). At a press conference on Wednesday April 20 the initiative was unveiled and media was given the opportunity to ask questions. “As an agency we want to be able to provide the right service at the right place at the right time to the individual,” said Chuck Dowdall, executive director of St. Leonard’s Community Services (SLCS). ”This initiative speaks volumes to how this community has come together to make sure a person receives the right service at the right time and at the right place. It also ensures there will be no gaps in service going forward for these individuals needing assistance.”

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A protocol to reduce police wait times in the emergency department

Healthcare Management Forum

July 01, 2015

Healthcare organizations are increasingly tasked with implementing change initiatives that improve the patient experience and target priorities such as Emergency Department (ED) volumes. This article describes the development, implementation, and outcomes of a collaborative protocol between the Niagara Health System and the Niagara Regional Police Service that resulted in a 57% reduction in police wait times in the ED. Six critical success factors contributed to the outcomes that were achieved and are detailed for those organizations interested in engaging in a similar change initiative.

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The use of a brief mental health screener to enhance the ability of police officers to identify persons with serious mental disorders.

International Journal of Law and Psychiatry

April 01, 2016

Police agencies in Canada and elsewhere have received much criticism over how they respond to persons with serious mental disorders. The adequacy of training provided to police officers on mental health issues and in particular on recognizing indicators of serious mental disorders has been a major concern. This paper describes the process that led to the development of a new brief mental health screener (interRAI Brief Mental Health Screener, BMHS) designed to assist police officers to better identify persons with serious mental disorders. The interRAI BMHS was developed in collaboration with interRAI, an international, not-for-profit consortium of researchers. The government of Ontario had previously partnered with interRAI to develop and implement the Resident Assessment Instrument for Mental Health (RAI-MH), the assessment system mandated for use on all persons admitted into inpatient psychiatric care in the province. ...

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Waterloo startup working to improve treatment of people with mental illness wins at pitch competition

Exchange Magazine

November 27, 2015

HealthIM, a software company seeking to improve the treatment of people with mental illness in emergency situations, was among the big winners at the Velocity Fund Finals held yesterday at the University of Waterloo. Velocity is an entrepreneurship program at Waterloo, and the Velocity Garage is set to be the world's largest free business incubator, thanks to a new partnership with Google and Communitech, announced yesterday.

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Development of the interRAI Brief Mental Health Screener to Enhance the Ability of Police Officers to Identify Persons with Serious Mental Disorders

PhD Thesis - University of Waterloo

June 03, 2013

The interRAI BMHS provides useful information for both police officers and ED staff regarding the variables significantly associated with serious mental disorder. It will help support police officer and ED decision-making, and it will contribute to enhancing the training provided to police officers and mental health service providers. Additional research and larger sample sizes will help to further refine the instrument. The interRAI BMHS is based on health system data and written in the language of the health system. As such, it has the potential to both enhance the ability of police officers and other mental health service providers to identify indicators of serious mental disorder, and to help synchronize the criminal justice and mental health care systems.

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