Saskatchewan police using new app to help assess mental health

A new app is changing how officers in Saskatchewan are able to evaluate an individual’s mental health.

Originating in Ontario, the software called HealthIM is aimed at improving how police handle a situation when someone is mentally unstable.

“Asking the correct questions every time takes a way a little bit of the discretion,” said Const. Jeff Nachtegaele.

Made up of 20 questions, the questionnaire will then produce a number between one and 10 in three different categories: risk of harm to self, risk of harm to others, and self-care risk.

Saskatoon police say an average person would rank somewhere around two, where those at risk of a mental crisis will rank higher on the scale.

How each officer fills out the questionnaire is subjective.

“It could be a domestic dispute, it could be a disturbance, and then the person is exhibiting behaviour that really the officer’s not quite sure,” said Insp. Randy Huisman.

Huisman says the software helps officers when they’re not sure if a person is on substance, intoxicated or in need of mental health services.

One of the biggest goals is to save time and money for the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon.

Police can provide the emergency triage desk with an assessment of the individual before they arrive, which can cut down on wait times.

In a statement, the Saskatchewan Health Authority says they are in support of the HealthIM app and they are working in conjunction with the Saskatoon and Regina police services. SHA says it hopes the app will provide faster and more appropriate care for patients.

The app’s co-founder, Daniel Pearson Hirdes, said this is still a pilot project and data has not been sifted through just yet.

Manitoba is exploring the idea of being the next province to try it out.