Delta Police became the first police agency in BC to use a new technology to help those experiencing mental health crises to more quickly get the help they need, while freeing up police time spent dealing with mental health apprehensions.
All front line patrol officers with Delta Police have just been trained on a new app available on their smartphones called HealthIM.
The app helps turn officers’ observations, when dealing with a mental health call, into clinical language that medical staff can then more readily interpret.
While still at the initial call, an officer will take about five minutes to input the pertinent data. The app then securely forwards a report to Surrey Memorial Hospital, which is the hospital to which Delta patients attend when dealing with a mental health crisis.
“When our officers arrive at the hospital with the patient, staff there will already know who is coming in, and what observations were made that contributed to the officer making the decision to apprehend,” says Sergeant James Sandberg, who heads up the Mental Health Unit at Delta Police. “We think this will be a really valuable tool in helping improve mental health outcomes in Delta.”
Sgt. Sandberg explains how Delta Police officers are now using the HealthIM app.
Previously, officers averaged 120-130 minutes wait time per mental health apprehension. Sgt. Sandberg notes that other police departments using the app have seen significant decreases in wait times, and he believes Delta could see the average wait time cut in half.
He notes that while police may apprehend someone under the Mental Health Act, a physician ultimately determines whether or not someone should be admitted to hospital for care, or released back into the community.
“Our community partners, like the Delta Police, play a critical role in helping us provide quality, timely care to our patients”, said Dr. Craig Murray, Head of Emergency Medicine at Surrey Memorial Hospital. “This new technology means we can make sure we have the right resources in place, so when these vulnerable patients arrive we are ready to provide them with the care and support they need.”
In addition to reducing hospital wait times, and improving communication with staff at the hospital, use of the app is expected to help increase the speed of follow-up care. Previously, when an individual was apprehended, the officer would write a report detailing the interaction to the Delta Police Mental Health Unit. When the DPD Mental Health officers returned to work, they would review the report and person’s history, often making referrals to appropriate community agencies.
HealthIM automates this process, so those that need help can receive it in a more timely fashion. This should also free up time for the Mental Health Unit officers.
Approximately 15% of all Delta Police calls for service involve a mental health component. Sgt. Sandberg believes the process of going through the app’s clinical assessment function, will also serve to provide ongoing education to patrol officers regarding when people should be apprehended. This should result in more consistency throughout the department when dealing with mental health apprehensions.