Kawartha Lakes Police has the lowest hospital wait times of any service using the Health IM program

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KAWARTHA LAKES- A partnership between the Kawartha Lakes Police Service and Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay is proving to be a success.

Police say their 40 minute average hospital wait time is the lowest of any service using the Health IM program for mental health calls. 28 Police services are currently using the program.

HealthIM is a program which allows officers to screen an individuals risk of harm to self, harm to others and failure to care for self, in keeping with the Mental Health Act.  An officer who is interacting with a member of the community in crisis can input data into the screening program, (through their mobile data terminal in the officers cruiser).  The program provides the officer with an evaluation of risk in the three noted areas and will help an officer assess the individual’s needs.  If an officer determines it is necessary to take the person in crisis to hospital, the program shares the information obtained by the officer with mental health / medical professionals at Ross Memorial Hospital in real time and before the cruiser arrives at the hospital.

“We can submit the report electronically to the emergency department at the hospital, so staff can often review the information even before the officers arrive with a patient.” Chief Mark Mitchell explains. “The report also provides information about a person’s risk to themselves, to others and their ability to care for themselves.”

Mitchell says the benefits of lower wait times includes better patient care and more efficient use of police resources.  (i.e. officers not tied up for hours at the hospital)

All members of the Kawartha Lakes Police Service have received the training.  “It’s important because a large part of the good work our officers do each day relates in some way to mental health.” Dave Murtha Administrative Sergeant KLPS told Kawartha 411 in February when the program was being introduced.  “Having a tool that helps an officer make better, informed decisions to help our community members will benefit everybody.”

The program cost the service $14,650. During the 2017 calendar year, the City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service attended 413 calls for service that were categorized as being mental health related but Murtha says that number is probably much higher than the statistics show.

“I would suggest that the number of mental health calls our police service attended would actually be higher.  I believe this because an officer may attend a call for service that has some underlying mental health issues, but has been categorized as something else.” Murtha explains. “For example, the police service may receive a “traffic complaint” because someone is walking in the middle of the road and is interfering with traffic.  When officers arrive and speak with the pedestrian they may discover that the person is acting in such a way because of an underlying mental health issue.  This incident could be classified by the attending officer either way, (as a traffic complaint or mental health) and may not be captured by the statistics for mental health related calls for service.”

In August the service responded to 43 calls related to mental health. Of those 5 were involuntarily apprehended, 9 voluntary apprehension and 8 were apprehended under an existing order. No action was taken in 21 cases.