Manitoba

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

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.   

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

RCMP Cpl. Nirmal Rukhra says the Portage la Prairie detachment is using the HealthIM program every week to assess what response it should take with calls about people experiencing a mental health crisis. (Ian Froese/CBC)

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. 

Officers can overrule the opinion of the software if they disagree with the program's assessment, according to HealthIM CEO Daniel Pearson Hirdes, adding HealthIM does not make a diagnosis for any person.

It is expected the program will start being used by Winnipeg's police officers next month, and Brandon's cops in July, Pearson says.

Peace of mind for cops

Fewer people have been brought to hospital as a result of the program in Steinbach, Thompson and Portage la Prarie, saving the time of police officers, according to Jane MacLatchy, commanding officer of the Manitoba RCMP.

"Our members are more comfortable making the assessment to not apprehend because they've got this tool that gives them that level of comfort — that the decision is the appropriate one and they can refer these individuals somewhere else," MacLatchy said at RCMP headquarters in Winnipeg on Monday.

"We've also seen that giving the hospital the information ahead of time shortens the amount of time our members need to stay at the hospital when they are bringing somebody who has been apprehended."

MacLatchy expects the program to expand to at least three more RCMP detachments, but adds the force has not determined which communities will benefit.

Jane MacLatchy, commanding officer of the Manitoba RCMP, says the initial rollout of the HealthIM program has given officers a comfort level that their response to a person experiencing a mental health issue is correct. (Ian Froese/CBC)

The province invested $310,000 last year to make HealthIM available for the Winnipeg Police Service, Brandon Police Service, a trio of RCMP detachments and several municipal police forces. The software can be downloaded onto tablets in patrol cars.

Fewer apprehensions

"Our members strive very much to make an appropriate assessment whether they have this tool or not," MacLatchy said. "In using this tool, it gives them the comfort level in perhaps decreasing the amount of apprehensions they're making."

The program's expansion is funded through the provincial government's criminal property forfeiture program, which is doling out $1.6 million to law enforcement agencies this year.

Other programs being supported include:

  • $75,000 to bring 40 girls and young women from Shamattawa First Nation to a Girl Guides summer camp.
  • $30,000 to establish a community garden and wellness area in Moose Lake, Man.
  • $13,000 to support the Liberty FC soccer club, which gives Winnipeg refugees a outlet for recreational sport. 

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese reports from the Manitoba Legislature for CBC Manitoba. He previously wrote for the Brandon Sun and the Carillon in Steinbach. Story idea? Email ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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