Alberta’s government is supporting police services across the province to treat mental health and addiction as health-care issues while keeping communities safe. The implementation of HealthIM is in addition to significant support from Alberta’s government to ensure police are responding safely and effectively as part of a recovery-oriented system of care.
The HealthIM system equips police officers with information to better assess the needs of a person experiencing a mental health emergency when police respond to calls for service. This innovative tool not only helps people get the recovery-oriented help they need, it increases safety and ensures the effective use of police and emergency resources.
“We are treating mental health and addiction as health-care issues while keeping our communities safe. We don’t need to choose between the two. When police are called to intervene, HealthIM will provide them with the tools and information they need to keep everyone safe and improves 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.”
“Alberta’s government is focused on ensuring that police in Alberta have the support they need to keep communities safe while also being an integral part of a health-care response. The HealthIM system will ensure that police can peacefully de-escalate difficult situations and ensure that individuals receive appropriate care.”
Beginning in July, the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) will be the first service in Alberta to start using HealthIM. The goal is to expand HealthIM to other areas of the province over the next year in a phased approach.
When using HealthIM, police services will have access to:
- A pre-response safety briefing that includes de-escalation techniques and access to any previously known police information about the person in crisis.
- A mental health risk screening tool 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 help with evidence-based decision-making and outcomes evaluation.
“We are honoured to be the first police service in Alberta to utilize HealthIM’s mobile application to deliver an empathetic, evidence-based approach to emergency mental health crisis calls. HealthIM is an innovative approach for EPS to shape a safer city by using science from a health perspective to provide compassionate policing to citizens experiencing a mental health crisis. We are happy to see our policing counterparts throughout Alberta will now be able to join this partnership to ensure our citizens’ health and well-being are prioritized.”
This funding is in addition to the $789,000 announced last year. Since then, Alberta’s government, the Edmonton Police Service, Alberta Health Services, HealthIM staff and other partners have been working diligently to prepare for the launch of the HealthIM system.
Data from other jurisdictions shows that HealthIM contributes to significant reductions in involuntary arrests while ensuring people in crisis get appropriate help to support their recovery.
This announcement builds on prior collaboration between Alberta’s government and EPS. In December, with support from Alberta’s government, EPS became one of the first police agencies in Canada to offer anyone who’s arrested for any reason immediate access to addiction treatment.
Alberta’s government has also partnered with EPS to support individuals experiencing addiction and mental health challenges by providing $600,000 in funding to the Human-centred Engagement and Liaison Partnership (HELP) teams. The HELP teams, which pair police constables and social navigators, work closely with local community organizations. They focus their efforts on helping people struggling with mental health and addiction access recovery-oriented health and social supports.
Alberta’s government is building a comprehensive recovery-oriented system of care that focuses on prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery. This includes supporting the addition of more than 8,000 new publicly funded treatment spaces; the elimination of daily user fees for publicly funded residential addiction treatment; a new patient matching tool, Recovery Access Alberta; and services to reduce harm, such as the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS) app, the introduction of a nasal naloxone pilot, expansion of opioid agonist therapy and fully covering the cost of the injectable opioid treatment drug Sublocade.
As part of Alberta’s recovery-oriented system of care, the health system and justice system are working together, providing up to $20 million over four years to expand drug treatment courts to help stop people stuck in the cycle of addiction-related crime from reoffending. This expansion includes doubling the total combined capacity of the Edmonton and Calgary courts and expanding the courts across Alberta.
- HealthIM helps police officers to better prepare when responding to individuals in acute crisis. The pre-response briefing includes de-escalation techniques, as well as any known information about the person in crisis. This supports officer safety and the safety of the person in crisis.
- HealthIM also helps officers assess whether a person should be conveyed to a designated facility and facilitates communication between law enforcement and health services.
- If apprehension isn’t warranted, officers can use HealthIM to link a person with community supports or a service provider the individual is familiar with.
- A total of almost $2.4 million is supporting the provincial implementation of HealthIM. This includes:
- Almost $1.6 million in new funding, to be distributed in 2022-23 and 2023-24.
- About $789,000 was announced last year to support system building and early implementation.