Let’s say you are in a mental health crisis, and for some reason, the Luther Police Department is called. Maybe you called them. Maybe a friend or family member. Maybe a neighbor. Maybe you face arrest for something that happened, maybe you don’t. Maybe you need to go to the hospital, maybe you just need to talk to a mental health professional.
Suicidal thoughts. Depression. Mental Illnesses. Crisis. The Luther Police Department answers a number of those types of calls monthly.
Your options include getting put in a patrol car for a ride to a nearby mental health facility or hospital emergency room. Those visits might take hours, in the waiting room, during the appointment, and then setting up the next steps that might include hospital admission or transport somewhere else, hours away. The officer will be there with you, as long as it takes, and as far away from Luther as is necessary. There are other scenarios, but this is one that seems highly inefficient and ineffective, and more common than we think.
Funding addresses the challenge
In comes $2 million in funding from the Oklahoma State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. The funding came from the Oklahoma Legislature to acquire tablets for law enforcement agencies to connect someone with help. The solution was designed to get help to Oklahomans quicker and to save resources like time and fuel. The new funding also provides for the addition of more mental health facilities in the state.
LPD recently was given seven of those tablets through a partnership with Northcare. The Oklahoma City-based agency offers services for children, adults, and families to recover from mental illness, substance use, trauma, or crisis.
How does it work?
The iPads ride along in LPD patrol cars, charged and ready to go when needed. Much like making a facetime or video call, the officer can connect an agency to a person on the screen. The mental health professional might pick up right away, or it might take a few rings. Someone answers, every time. After an assessment, next steps are undertaken. There might be a dropped call, but if that happens, they try again to continue the appointment.
The iPad program augments LPD’s plan to better serve the community. Another part of the plan is for officers to become certified in Crisis Intervention. LPD Capt. Chris Fetters, already CIT certified, said the goal is for all officers to participate in the 40-hour intensive training through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse by the end of 2022, and for reserve officers to have it by the end of 2023.