Police officers will be getting access to more information to assist them while responding to mental health and addiction crisis calls.
Starting in July, the Edmonton Police Service will be the first to have the information service HealthIM on their digital devices which includes de-escalation techniques and access to any previously known police information about the person in crisis.
The goal is to expand HealthIM to other areas of the province over the next year in a phased approach. The province is providing almost $1.6 million for provincial implementation.
Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said it’s important to recognize police are not mental health specialists and may not be the best equipped to handle mental health emergencies or crises.
“People who are in the middle of a mental health crisis present some of the most unpredictable situations that a police officer may face. These situations require far different tactics, far different approaches, than those involving criminals,” said Shandro at a press conference in Edmonton on Tuesday.
“Mishandling a situation like that can result in tragedy. That’s why it’s important for police to have access to as much information about the individuals in question before they respond to crisis.”
He said details about the person’s weapons history, any past encounters with police, and particular psychological triggers, cannot only help police peacefully de-escalate the situation, but also determine whether the person needs to be taken to a designated health facility, or if they would be better served by community health resources.
Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Mike Ellis said HealthIM will help officers better assess the help that a person needs, take appropriate action to keep everyone safe, and improve outcomes for those in crisis.
“Police must be an integral part of the recovery-oriented system of care we’re building and we’re supporting them to do so,” Ellis said.
The province says the $1.6 million in new funding will be distributed in 2022-23 and 2023-24, and about $789,000 was announced last year to support system building and early implementation.