Guest Editorial by Todd Miller, SVP of Strategic Programs, Rave Mobile Safety, 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Multi-Award Winner
Americans are deeply concerned about the state of mental health in the country right now.
In fact, a 2021 survey report conducted by Rave Mobile Safety found that nearly all respondents (94%) are worried about mental health in the U.S.
Adding complexity to the issue is the fact that many people don’t feel all emergency responders are equipped to handle mental health crises when they transpire: 86% of survey respondents “completely or somewhat agree that those tasked with public safety need to make improvements to better respond to mental health crises,” according to Rave’s findings.
First responders, especially police officers, need specialized training, or access to those with it, to de-escalate challenging situations involving people with mental health conditions.
In many instances today, these situations end badly when first responders are unprepared, which is why we need a new approach.
While there is no silver bullet, one answer lies in providing supplemental training and education to all stakeholders involved in addressing public mental health crises – from first responders to dispatchers – so that they can make better decisions that save lives.
(The increase of Americans struggling with mental health issues amid the pandemic has prompted many state and local officials to find new ways to respond to those dealing with a mental health crisis. Courtesy of New Multiple Homeland Security Award Winner Rave Mobile Safety, in the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program and YouTube. Posted on Dec 22, 2021.)
Community members also play an important role in this work and often possess knowledge that can positively shape how events unfold.
With this in mind, below are three best practices that public safety agencies can adopt to improve emergency response efforts to mental health crises going forward.
Making these changes is crucial for keeping our communities safe as the world re-opens.
Implement voluntary safety profiles to facilitate better response
One proactive approach public safety leaders can take is to encourage community members to register their households voluntarily with first responders.
In doing so, they notify leaders of any predetermined medical conditions – including mental illness – that could one day pose a public safety risk.
By implementing the right tools and building a robust snapshot of the community, emergency responders can deliver tailored support in situations involving certain people.
Police officers, mental health counselors, and dispatchers are empowered to respond quickly and notify other professionals who can de-escalate situations involving specific individuals.
As public safety agencies build out their safety profile databases, they should communicate openly about its purpose and explain to community members how it enables first responders to keep them safe today and in future emergency situations.
Virginia Beach is a great example of one community that has publicly taken steps to enhance their response and communicate it to the public.
(Although mental health programs in colleges have been found to reduce violence on campuses, very few colleges have the resources to develop and maintain adequate mental health programs due to the diversity of issues reportedly affecting student mental health. Courtesy of New Multiple Homeland Security Award Winner Rave Mobile Safety, in the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program and YouTube. Posted on Dec 22, 2021.)
Ensure cross-collaboration with alternate response resources
Whenever mental health crises emerge, public safety officials must be able to collaborate across specialties and departments to ensure the best possible outcomes for all involved.
Disjointed response efforts and missing information can cost valuable time – and in dire circumstances – lives.
Officials should make sure everyone involved in emergency management is prepared to work with others across the response ecosystem – fire departments, police departments, EMS, medical institutions, and other local organizations – that may have critical information about the people involved.
For example, consider an emergency situation involving a person with autism who doesn’t respond well to verbal commands.
Given this information proactively, a dispatcher could specifically request individuals trained in de-escalation methods involving people with mental health needs.
Rather than send a lone police officer, the dispatcher could pair the officer with a mental health counselor who understands how to handle such situations.
This level of coordination is invaluable in emergency response efforts. Streamlining communication channels and training teams to think about how they can work with alternate response resources help maintain safe communities.
Commit to building trust within your community
It’s also important to establish trust within a community and encourage members to share information with public safety teams that could prove useful in emergency situations.
Oftentimes, public safety departments don’t know the people at the center of mental health incidents. Consequently, they have to rely on medical information received voluntarily beforehand or on people who know the individual.
Fortunately, studies show that community members are willing to share sensitive data with emergency teams that could aid in response efforts.
According to Rave’s 2021 survey report, 79% of people are “completely or very willing to provide first responders with information on their mental health history or that of their loved ones.”
The best way to ensure this happens when emergencies occur is to build trust regularly within the community.
Officials should share that community members play an essential part in addressing emergency situations and that their wellbeing is top of mind.
By implementing these three best practices in communities, public safety can equip emergency response teams with the knowledge and resources they need to mitigate mental health crises in a post-pandemic world.
As people return to public spaces, officials must invest in these approaches to strengthen trust within our communities and keep everyone safe.
About the Author
Todd Miller is the SVP of Strategic Programs at Rave Mobile Safety.
Prior to joining Rave, Todd managed the self-service consulting Practice at Oracle where he was responsible for the delivery of customized software solutions for clients in North America, supporting millions of users.
At Oracle he was awarded recognition as a member of Oracle’s top 10% in Consulting.
Todd’s previous experience includes leading consulting teams for Siebel and eDOCS in North America, Europe, and Australia.
(Learn how the Rave Mobile Safety Platform is purpose-built for critical communication and collaboration to enable emergency notifications, critical data sharing, and emergency response, to ensure the right information gets to the right people so they can respond effectively in an emergency. Courtesy of Rave Mobile Safety and YouTube.)
Rave Mobile Safety a Multi-Award Winner in 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program
American Security Today’s Annual ‘ASTORS’ Awards is the preeminent U.S. Homeland Security Awards Program, and now in its Sixth Year, continues to recognize industry leaders of Physical and Border Security, Cybersecurity, Emergency Preparedness – Management and Response, Law Enforcement, First Responders, as well as federal, state and municipal government agencies in the acknowledgment of their outstanding efforts to Keep our Nation Secure.
Rave Mobile Safety (First of Two)
Best COVID-19 Communications Solution
As public safety and first responders continue to struggle with the implications of COVID-19, it is more crucial than ever that they are able to proactively identify, communicate with and respond to those at greatest risk.
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(Learn what to look for in a critical communications platform and how it can help your agency improve response efforts during your coronavirus recovery efforts. Courtesy of Rave Mobile Safety and YouTube.)
Rave Mobile Safety (Second of Two)
Best Risk, Crisis Management Solution
It’s challenging to have paper-based checklists sitting in a folder or notes on a personal mobile phone when lifesaving decisions and actions must be made.
Teams need to be prepared for all possible events and make strategic decisions quickly during those initial critical moments of an incident as first responders arrive on scene.
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(See how you can Mitigate Operational Disruptions, and initiate communication during major events, from severe weather to facility closures, power outages and road closures to operational issues that impact your supply chain, infrastructure and IT. Courtesy of Rave Mobile Safety.)
*Rave Mobile Safety was also recognized with Multiple Award Wins in the 2020, 2019, 2018 and 2017 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Programs.
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