WINNIPEG -- The Brandon Police Service’s new tool for responding to mental health crises is yielding positive results for the police force, just seven months after its launch.

According to a news release, since 'HealthIM' launched in July 2019 less than half of crisis calls the cops respond to now end up involuntarily at the hospital for assessment. It also notes that of the calls that do end up at the Brandon Regional Health Centre, wait times for officer-escorted presentations have decreased from 3-5 hours, to an average of just over an hour.

“What we’re finding now is that rather than taking these individuals to triage at the hospital to see a doctor, we’re recognizing through the app that they’re able to go to other agencies to get the care that they need rather than a long hospital wait,” said Sgt. Kirby Sararas, public information officer for the Brandon Police Service.

HealthIM works by providing officers responding to a mental health call with safety information and actions they can take to comfort the person. The program guides the cop through a clinical risk assessment to determine whether an involuntary apprehension under the Mental Health Act is required. The app can also securely transmit advanced notice to the hospital of an incoming apprehended person in crisis, so staff has time to get ready.

“Just streamlining what we are already doing, rather than dragging out the process for what the clients had to go through,” said Sararas.

Going forward, Sararas said, the Brandon Police Services hopes to continue to share information in a timely manner.

“We see it firsthand when we’re sitting there with clients, who are in need of some attention because of their mental health crisis, they’re not always getting it in that timely manner. By the time they do see someone it could be many, many, many hours later. They’re just exhausted and they’re not really in the right mind space to go forward with any kind of true process,” she said.

“So having that quicker and more timely sometimes, I think, is beneficial to the clients themselves.”