Guest Editorial by Joel Vetter, Chief of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services, Suffolk County, NY
Mental health incidents are increasing in the U.S. According to a January 2021 NHIS Early Release Program and U.S. Census Bureau survey, 41% of adults in the country have symptoms of anxiety disorder and/or depressive disorder, caused in large part by stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between January and June 2019, only 11% of adults, on average, reported having the same symptoms.
The difference in these two statistics points to why adequate mental health emergency response is more important now than ever.
(Learn more, about simple strategies your organization can put to work for improved mental health awareness in your community. Courtesy of New Multiple Homeland Security Award Winner Rave Mobile Safety, in the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program and YouTube.)
However, public distrust of law enforcement can make moving forward challenging.
A survey released earlier this year found that 86% of respondents “completely or somewhat agree that those tasked with public safety need to make improvements to better respond to mental health crises.”
Not only do public safety officials have to bolster their mental health response capabilities, but they also have to regain the trust of their community members.
Fortunately, there are proven solutions to this challenge.
In fact, over the last few years, our department in Suffolk County, NY, has adopted new tools to ensure emergency responders, public safety personnel, and dispatchers have the information they need to handle mental health emergencies safely.
Our ultimate goal is to ensure people experiencing mental health crises get the care they need as soon as they need it.
We also aim to support Suffolk County at large by showcasing how everyone can work together to improve emergency mental health services across the region.
Equip Responders with the Right Information
Given the rise in mental health incidents across the country, it’s critical for emergency departments and incident response teams to give first responders the context they need to address situations safely.
The problem is that this doesn’t happen consistently due to the protocols dispatchers typically follow.
For instance, the primary role of dispatch is to get information about the nature and location of an emergency and then send response teams out accordingly.
But this process doesn’t guarantee that a caller will mention that the person involved in an emergency is having a mental health crisis, might be a victim of domestic abuse, or other pertinent information.
Consequently, dispatchers may end up sending responders who don’t have the relevant training or a full understanding of the situation they are entering.
Of course, this can create unnecessary risk and put people’s lives in danger.
That’s why having a safety profile registry, like Smart911, that integrates seamlessly with 911 protocols is paramount.
Community members can access Smart911 for free to upload information that would be valuable to responders in an emergency.
For example, individuals who suffer from mental health conditions or their family members could proactively share details related to medications, diagnoses, emergency contacts, and more.
This information is tremendously useful for responders in charge of handling stressful and chaotic situations.
(Learn More about the benefits of Smart911 through short clips of of Smart911 mentions on local and national news channels. Courtesy of Rave Mobile Safety and YouTube.)
Should an individual who has already created a safety profile make a 911 call using a phone number recognized by the system, his or her information would be displayed automatically to a dispatcher.
The dispatcher would then see details pertaining to a potential mental health issue and can send responders with requisite mental health first aid training.
In situations where non-verbal communications are necessary, such as a domestic abuse situation when the victim cannot talk on a 911 call, community members can use two-way chat with 9-1-1 to text their concerns.
Dispatchers can give officers and/or the Crisis Intervention Team a heads up about the situation they are approaching.
The Smart911 safety profile system improves real-time decision-making by giving dispatchers and first responders better insight into emergencies as they unfold.
Invest More in Emergency Department Mental Health Response Capabilities
Beyond supporting dispatchers with better information, emergency departments need to place more emphasis on their mental health response capabilities, as mental health incidents are uniquely challenging and traditional protocols often fall short.
Safety officials have to re-evaluate their emergency departments in light of the ongoing pandemic and make changes to elevate mental health response efforts.
One such change could be to make sure that a Crisis Intervention Team, or at least certain individuals on the team, are available 24/7.
Another could be to provide mental health first aid training to police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and other responders to address any knowledge gaps across different departments.
Ideally, no first responders would show up to a mental health emergency without training on how to navigate such a situation.
Emergency departments should also consider community members and provide peer support education about how to support people experiencing mental health crises.
Public safety officials can run campaigns and create awareness around tools they are using to promote mental health safety, such as encouraging residents to register for a Smart911 safety profile.
Another solution could be to create dedicated web pages about mental health crisis intervention that community members can refer to should they have any questions.
(Learn More about how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected our mental health. Hear from Helen, Jordan, Toluse, Sebastian, Laxmi, and Arsha talk about the challenges they faced with their mental health during the pandemic, what helped them, and their hopes for mental health care in the future. Courtesy of the World Health Organization (WHO) and YouTube. Posted on Oct 8, 2021.)
Better data for enhanced situational awareness and more training for responders are important steps that emergency services agencies can take to improve mental health response capabilities.
These improvements increase buy-in at the community level and inspire public confidence that their neighbors, coworkers, loved ones, and peers who are experiencing mental health challenges will be treated appropriately in an emergency.
They also equip responders to approach mental health crises with more grace and skill, which means that fewer emergencies spiral out of control and put people in harm’s way.
Rave Mobile Safety provides a leading critical communication and collaboration platform trusted to help save lives.
Rave connects you to other organizations and those you protect by providing innovative solutions to prepare better, respond faster and communicate more effectively during emergencies, in crisis situations, or for planned events.
(Hear from Rave CEO Todd Piett, and other top executives on the tools and resources that Rave Mobile Safety offers communities nationwide. Courtesy of Rave Mobile Safety and Vimeo.)
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.
Of equal importance is ensuring the protection of first responders to COVID-19 exposure, and in order to provide better safety and communication capabilities to organizations across all industries, Rave Mobile Safety developed its Coronavirus Recovery Solution, to enable these organizations and agencies to adhere to national and local guidelines while creating a safe environment for their staff and community.
Two key applications include Critical Communications for timely, targeted, and personal notifications to employees and members within an organization; and Mass Notifications across 9-1-1, first responders, and emergency management to protect public safety through natural disasters, operational events, and crisis incidents.
(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.
Rave Collaborate ensures all key resources can be easily found and implemented when the unimaginable occurs.
Staff can quickly see what needs to be done, make appropriate response decisions, and account for their actions.
(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.
The Annual ‘ASTORS’ Awards highlights the most cutting-edge and forward-thinking security solutions coming onto the market today, to ensure our readers have the information they need to stay ahead of the competition and keep our Nation safe – one facility, street, and city at a time.
The United States was forever changed 20 years ago on September 11th, and we were fortunate to have many of those who responded to those horrific tragedies join us at the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Luncheon.
In the days that followed 9/11, the critical needs of protecting our country catapulted us into new and innovative ways to secure our homeland – which is how many of the agencies and enterprise organizations that are today ‘ASTORS’ Awards Champions, came into being.
Our keynote speaker featured a moving and informative address from TSA Administrator and Vice-Admiral of the United States Coast Guard (Ret), David Pekoske; to our attendees who traveled from across the United States and abroad, on the strategic priorities of the 64,000 member TSA workforce in securing the transportation system, enabling safe, and in many cases, contactless travel.
Legendary Police Commissioner William Bratton of the New York Police Department, the Boston Police Department, and former Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department was also live at the event, meeting with attendees and signing copies of his latest work ‘The Profession: A Memoir of Community, Race, and the Arc of Policing in America,’ courtesy of the generosity of our 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Premier Sponsors.
The 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program was Proudly Sponsored by AMAROK, Fortior Solutions and SIMS Software, along with Returning Premier Sponsors ATI Systems, Attivo Networks, Automatic Systems, and Reed Exhibitions.
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(See just a few highlights of American Security Today’s 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Presentation Luncheon at ISC East. Courtesy of My Pristine Images and Vimeo.)
To learn more about ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Award Winners solutions, be on the lookout for the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ CHAMPIONS Edition Fully Interactive Magazine – the Best Products of 2021 ‘A Year in Review’.
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It will serve as your Go-To Source throughout the year for ‘The Best of 2021 Products and Services‘ endorsed by American Security Today, and can satisfy your agency’s and/or organization’s most pressing Homeland Security and Public Safety needs.
From Physical Security (Access Control, Critical Infrastructure, Perimeter Protection, and Video Surveillance Cameras and Video Management Systems), to IT Security (Cybersecurity, Encryption, Data Storage, Anti-Malware and Networking Security – Just to name a few), the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ CHAMPIONS EDITION will have what you need to Detect, Delay, Respond to, and Mitigate today’s real-time threats in our constantly evolving security landscape.
It will also include featured guest editorial pieces from some of the security industry’s most respected leaders, and recognized firms in the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program.
For a complete list of 2021 ‘ASTORS’ Award Winners, begin HERE.
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