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Police hope a new app, iPads will help with mental health crises

By Bob Conrad

The Reno Police Department hopes new iPads and an app will give officers a new tool to help manage people experiencing mental duress.

RPD recently partnered with a health plan provider to get the tablets and the MyCare app in the hopes people in distress can quickly access an on-call clinician – through video on the iPad.

“Since so much of our modern behavioral and mental health practice is based in IT anyhow, this technology could serve to connect a lot of people in need with the services most befitting them,” said RPD Resource Officer Brandon Cassinelli. “An officer will have the ability to utilize a one-button solution to video conference with a local clinician who is on-call, then hand the iPad directly to a consumer of mental health and public safety services.”

“There is plenty of community hurt to go around that isn’t yet seen to properly.”

The mental health professional – from a pool of clinicians being finalized with Renown Health, Cassinelli said – can aid police in de-escalating crisis situations, such as threats of violence and suicide, as well as provide referrals for those in distress.

Cassinelli said RPD to start will have about 20 iPads with the MyCare app installed. The department’s patrol division will have them “during days of the week/times of the day where behavioral health crises are prevalent,” not when an in-person clinician is available.

Mental health professionals will be on call via video on the tablets, which officers can give to those experiencing a crisis as a way to connect them with potential services. Evaluations and referrals can also be done in the field via video.

“There is plenty of community hurt to go around that isn’t yet seen to properly,” Cassinelli added.

Police have been criticized locally and nationally for responding to crises with guns blazing when subjects, critics argue, are better helped with trained mental health professionals. About 25% of deadly police encounters involved people with mental illness, according to data compiled by the Washington Post.

The MyCare app is being used in Oklahoma, where the app’s company is based. 

It was featured on MSN:

“The officers can give an iPad to a person in need to chat directly to a mental health expert,” KOCO TV reported. “Master Sgt. Corey Nooner said officers are often called out to mental health calls because there are not a lot of other options. ‘We need to have a conversation nationally about the fact that we don’t have the mental health support services that we need,’ Nooner said.”

The company’s representatives say the app and its use are HIPAA compliant. 

“MyCare is a private, secure resource that allows for on-demand assessments or counseling with concurrent documentation and solution analytics, that help measure outcomes and treatment plans,” the company website notes.

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