top of page

Assisting police to respond to mental health crisis

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

Provincial Press Release May 6, 2021 @ 1:01pm published 1:23pm

Alberta’s government is providing more than $789,000 in funding to support the provincial implementation of a new digital tool to improve police interactions when responding to mental health emergencies.

Used in multiple Canadian jurisdictions, the HealthIM system is a digital platform that provides police officers with the onsite tools and information they need to improve safety for all involved. It can help in assessing whether a person should be transported to a designated facility for evaluation and connect the individual to community service providers if further intervention is not warranted.

“During a mental health emergency, police intervention can be a difficult experience for both the individual and the law enforcement officers involved. Funding to implement the HealthIM system in Alberta will support the health and well-being of Albertans while interacting with police as well as equipping our first responders with the tools they need to perform recovery-oriented interventions.” Jason Luan, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions

The HealthIM system includes:

  • Pre-response safety briefing that includes de-escalation techniques and access to any previously known police information about the person in crisis.

  • Mental health risk screener that helps officers determine whether transportation under the Mental Health Act to a designated health facility is warranted or if community-based services are more appropriate.

  • Inter-agency communication that supports information sharing with health facilities and community-based services, which expedites the transfer of care.

  • Reporting and analytics to assist with evidence-based decision-making.

“Providing Alberta’s law enforcement officers with another tool to assist in navigating the complexities of mental health emergencies strengthens policing’s ability to respond and support at a critical point in an individual’s journey to rehabilitation and recovery. The EPS is pleased to be the first in the province to fully adopt HealthIM, and greatly appreciates the assistance of the provincial government. We look forward to working with our policing partners across the province to implement this valuable technology.”

Dale McFee, chief of police, Edmonton Police Service, and president, Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police

While the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) will be the first police service in Alberta to fully implement HealthIM, this grant covers the coordination of a provincial rollout of the platform. This includes coordination with health services locally and provincially, and local configuration of the system in additional police services. The EPS implementation will create a foundation of best practices, implementation strategies and lessons learned that will help inform the expansion of the system.

“From the patient’s perspective, mental health apprehension and transport to hospital by police services can be traumatic and stigmatizing. Experience in other provinces has shown this kind of tool can reduce those apprehensions and potentially provide quicker access to appropriate community programs.”
Janice Harrington, health and mental health patient advocate, Alberta

Data from other jurisdictions, such as Manitoba, demonstrates the HealthIM system contributes to significant reductions in involuntary arrests and police resources, as well as increases in overall savings – all while ensuring people in crisis get the appropriate help they need.

Alberta’s government is creating a world-class recovery-oriented mental health and addiction system, spanning prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery. A $140-million investment over four years is supporting the addition of new publicly funded treatment spaces and the elimination of daily user fees for publicly funded residential addiction treatment. This commitment is in addition to the more than $800 million Alberta Health Services spends annually to provide mental health and addiction services in communities across the province.

Quick facts

  • HealthIM uses a digitized version of the interRAI™ Brief Mental Health Screener (BMHS) for the risk assessment component of the system.

  • The HealthIM system has been adopted provincially in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and is used by numerous police services in Ontario.

  • Albertans experiencing mental health challenges are encouraged to visit or call the Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642 for information on supports, services and referrals. Call 911 in an emergency.

bottom of page