Emergencies are tense situations for all involved, from callers in distress to dispatchers assessing the situation to law enforcement and emergency medical service providers responding to the call. When such calls involve individuals experiencing a mental health emergency, the danger for both the individual and responders increases.
Officials at Kern County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services in California have taken on an active role working with local law enforcement officials and medical professionals as part of a Crisis Intervention Training committee.
“Going out to certain situations where you run into people with potential behavioral health issues, it’s not only a dangerous situation for those people, it’s also potentially a dangerous situation for law enforcement officials,” says Roger Perez, marketing and promotions coordinator for the county’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services division. “We do training on a regular basis to try to minimize that danger so that these law enforcement officers are going in without a blind eye. They’re going in with knowledge of some things to look for so they don’t just go in and hope that the situation works out.”
Kern County behavioral health officials now hope technology can aid in their efforts. The county recently signed on with Rave Mobile Safety, a Framingham, Mass.-based communications and data platform provider, to implement a new database that it hopes will better inform and prepare emergency responders.
How it works
Kern is in the process of installing the Rave software now and hopes to have it fully operational by early January. Once it is running, the county will invite residents to create personal safety profiles, which can include details such as an individual’s address, medical conditions, mental/behavioral health concerns and family contact information. The profiles are free to create and stored securely in the database, and users are free to withhold any details they don’t feel comfortable sharing. When 911 is called from a phone number associated with an existing safety profile, the information is displayed on the screen of the emergency dispatcher taking the call.
“A profile gives that really important information that helps guide those officers in the situation and makes it that much safer for everybody involved,” Perez says.
Rave, which has been in business since 2004, got its start in emergency communications partnering with universities, offering similar data to that contained in the system that is now being installed by Kern County.
“Our company started seeing what the challenges and gaps were in the emergency units’ response cycle [at universities],” says Noah Reiter, a Rave vice president. “We identified this lack of information about the person on the other end of the call to be a real challenge for 911 centers, especially in situations where the individual is not able to communicate effectively.”
Perez’s advice for behavioral health officials in other cities and counties considering similar solutions to improve emergency communications: Get your law enforcement officials on board.
“That’s really key, going to the sheriff or the police chief and getting their buy-in before you move forward,” Perez says. “Once we did that, the process has become a lot smoother, and we can serve as the singular voice moving the project forward.”