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All RCMP detachments in Manitoba will now have access to a tool that was first tested in Steinbach.
The Manitoba government announced July 16, that $450,000 from the Federal Proceeds of Crime Fund will be used to expand and maintain the use of HealthIM, a tool that improves responses to people in crisis and reduces the risk of harm according to Justice Minister Cliff Cullen.
"Law enforcement officers are often on 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 in their communities," Cullen said. "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."
Three detachments in the province hosted the pilot project including the Steinbach detachment.
Staff Sgt. Harold Laninga said the tool helps them assess the risk of harm, either to the subject themselves or to others.
"Based on that it lets us know how we can best help that person," he said.
Information is also passed directly to the hospital through Health IM receivers if the person needs to be admitted.
"They’re actually seeing what we’re seeing," Laninga said.
He described responding to mental health incidents as "an overwhelming issue" for police, adding that the Steinbach detachment had the biggest expenditure on mental health issues out of all provincial detachments.
Laninga said he believes these incidents begin as health issues. "But it becomes a police issue and it is very, very time consuming for us," he said.
The tool, Laninga added, can help determine if the subject needs to go the hospital, needs to be referred to a community agency, or doesn’t need any further help at all.
Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy, commanding officer for the Manitoba RCMP said the tool has been used daily by detachments taking part in the pilot project.
In fact between July 2019 and July 2020, HealthIM was used 4,087 times, and in 28.5 percent of cases, the person remained in the community and did not require hospitalization or other urgent interventions.
"HealthIM provides valuable insights to our members when they are attempting to de-escalate volatile situations," she said. "This additional funding will ensure that more of our officers will have access to Health IM to help them better handle these difficult calls for service."
Laninga was pleased to see the province expand the program.
"It’s a beneficial tool and I think other jurisdictions will find that also," he said.
While $450,000 for the project is coming from the Federal Proceeds of Crime Fund, the province says they have committed more than $750,000 to ensure police officers across the province can access HealthIM.