News and Events

New support for mental health response and education in Medicine Hat

May 6, 2021

A new mental health app will soon provide local law enforcement with an innovative way of responding to crisis while creating opportunities for learning and applied research at Medicine Hat College (MHC).

The Government of Alberta recently announced provincial funding for HealthIM, a digital, subscription-based system that connects emergency responders with critical data on individuals suffering from unmanaged mental health challenges and/or substance use issues.

Thanks to additional financial resources donated by the Brandon Niwa Legacy Fund – ‘The Beej Project’, through the Medicine Hat College Foundation, costs of the technology required for police to launch HealthIM will also be covered.

The Medicine Hat Police Service (MHPS) will be among one of the first police agencies in the province to implement the app. Officers will be equipped with cell phones connected to the app, putting valuable information like an individual’s mental health history, possible triggers, and de-escalation strategies right at their fingertips. This empathetic and evidence-based approach to emergency mental health crisis response has proven to increase safety of law enforcement personnel, improve crisis outcomes, promote more effective oversight and reduce the impact on policing resources.

“Providing officers with access to real-time and relevant information on individuals suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues will increase safety when officers respond to situations with people in crisis,” says Mike Worden, Chief of the MHPS. “This technology has been proven a reliable tool that will assist in the de-escalation of these potentially dangerous encounters. We would like to thank Medicine Hat College and the Niwa family for their unwavering support."

Data from the app will also support applied research and learning within MHC’s School of Health and Community Services by building awareness and understanding of the factors impacting mental health in the city.

“The opportunities for education with this initiative are invaluable to both the college and community. Having access to data specific to Medicine Hat and using it for research purposes at MHC allows us to better prepare students in our health and helping programs to respond to those in crisis through their chosen careers,” explains Kevin Shufflebotham, president and CEO of MHC. “The Medicine Hat College Foundation is honoured to work with the Niwa family and help further their goal of supporting mental health education.”

Also made possible through ‘The Beej Project’ is the Community Connection mental health video series featuring local medical, law enforcement, sports, and social service professionals discussing a wide range of topics related to mental health.

“Our community has experienced first-hand the devastating impacts of mental health struggles,” says Ted Clugston, Mayor of Medicine Hat. “This donation to improve local mental health programming, education and response, - including the launch of the HealthIM app – will greatly enhance the ability of local service providers to respond to the needs of individuals in crisis. We are extremely heartened by this gift from the Niwa family.”