Brandon police are seeing some early positive results on their new Health IM program for people suffering from mental health challenges. The program, which was rolled out last July, has been used successfully by front-line police almost 100 times to safely de-escalate a person in crisis and communicate with the emergency department at Brandon Regional Health Centre.
"The effective and efficient design of Health IM has allowed our front line officers to spend more time completing core policing functions and less time at the Regional Health Centre," stated Wayne Balcaen, Chief of the Brandon Police Service. "More importantly, the clients that we are serving are receiving timely and appropriate levels of care based on their individually identified needs while experiencing a mental health crisis.
Brandon Police Service was one of the first agencies in Canada to deploy the system to duty-issued smartphones for officers and believe this could be contributing to the success of the program. When responding to a mental health call, BPS officers access safety information and, when available, actions they can take to comfort the person. The officer is then guided through a clinical risk assessment to help them determine if an involuntary apprehension under Manitoba’s Mental Health Act is necessary. Advanced notification of an incoming apprehended person in crisis can then be securely transmitted to BRHC allowing Emergency Department staff time to prepare.
Although in use for just seven months, the new program, called 'HealthIM', is already yielding significant improvements. Comparing anecdotal information from before and statistics from after the program launched, less than half of the crisis calls BPS officers respond to now end up involuntarily at the hospital for assessment. For those calls that do go to hospital, BRHC wait times for an officer-escorted presentation have fallen from 3-5 hours down to an average of just 1h 07m.
Prairie Mountain Health Chief Executive Officer Penny Gilson, "Using HealthIM gives the BRHC Emergency Department advance notice of a patient’s arrival, enabling staff to mobilize for timely treatment. This initiative assists with providing more appropriate care, treatment and referrals, which is better for patients overall."
What happens to the individuals who would previously have been taken to hospital? Officers are now empowered to offer a referral to community mental health. Westman Crisis Services and the Child and Adolescent Treatment Centre are both set-up to receive referrals directly from front-line officers while they are on-scene with a person in crisis.