iPads for Police Officers

Pictured here are (Front L-R) Frank Webb, Project Manager, Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO); Lauri Fischer, NLCMHA Director of Finance; Jeff O’Brien, Chief of Police, Traverse City Police Department; Chief Deputy Edison Toquica, HCSO; Karen Hartley, NLCMHA Child and Family Supervisor; Christina VanHouten, NLCMHA Crisis Team Member; Stacey Kaminski, NLCMHA Operations Manager Crisis Services; (Back) Sean McElroy, The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD (working in the HCSO); Deputy Chad Sprik, Wexford County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO); Deputy Doyle Owens, WCSO; Jeremiah Williams, NLCMHA IT Supervisor; Captain Keith Gillis, Traverse City Police Department; Dan Mauk, NLCMHA CIO; Herman Ulmer, Reentry Services, HCSO.

Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority received a state grant to create a new virtual-mobile crisis intervention program which will help police cope with difficult calls for service and increase community safety when faced with an individual in a mental crisis. The program seeks to improve Crisis Intervention services and reduce unnecessary diversions of persons in crisis to emergency departments and jails.

The grant is for $100,000 and began April 1, 2018. The project will be complete and up and running by September 30, 2018.

To prepare to roll out our new program, some of our team members traveled to Houston, Texas, to meet with the Bureau of Mental Health and Jail Diversion of Harris County on April 23-24. Our contingent toured the new Joint Processing Center; the Jail Mental Health Unit; Reentry Services, including the Veterans Pods; and received presentations on the new Triage/Jail Diversion Desk, Jail Crisis Intervention Response Team, Patrol Crisis Intervention Response Team and the Tele-psychiatry pilot program. We appreciated the Bureau’s  hospitality and sharing about their mental health initiatives.

How it works – In general, the police officer encounters an individual they suspect is having a mental/emotional crisis and is cooperative. The officer asks if the individual would like to talk to the Crisis staff about their problem. If they agree, the officer calls the hotline on the iPad and provides the following: Officer’s Name and Agency, Person’s Name and Date of Birth, Brief overview of the situation. Once the officer has provided the relevant information,  the video teleconference begins with the Crisis Specialist. The Crisis Specialist spends about 10 minutes with the individual and develops a disposition based on their conversation. After the interview is complete, the officer speaks to the Crisis Specialist and receives the disposition, which may include: Immediate face-to-face with the Crisis Assist Team; Transport for inpatient treatment; Next day appointment with Crisis Assist Team; Crisis resolved on-site.

In other areas of the country, similar projects have resulted in significant diversions from inpatient psychiatric hospitals, jails and emergency rooms  as well as significant time savings for law enforcement.