Deputies turn to technology to save lives during mental health crises

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR)- The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office has a new tool to help people with mental health issues.

“Every day the police come across people experiencing mental health issues. While a large percentage of Oklahoma County Sheriff’s deputies have CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) certification, often the type of mental health crisis they face is beyond their training,” said Aaron Brilbeck, of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office.

Now MPs are turning to technology and experts to help ease the situation.

Brilbeck told KFOR that if an officer comes across someone experiencing a mental health episode, special iPads can Facetime with a therapist immediately on the scene.

The sheriff’s office says it has seen firsthand how new tools help reduce mental health crises.

“As soon as I asked them if they’d like to talk to a therapist right then and there, and they didn’t have to go anywhere, I could see their anxiety decrease,” said Lt. Gene Bradley of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office. . .

Deputies use more than 50 of the new devices daily to help save lives.

“There are three buttons, three options that you can choose from among all the mental health providers,” Brilbeck said.

Those mental health providers are HOPE Community Services, NorthCare, and Red Rock Behavioral Health Services. Therapists from each provider are available 24 hours a day.

Bradley told KFOR that he has more than fifteen years of experience in mental health, but the new service is a game changer for law enforcement officials.

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He said the sheriff’s office responds to more than 85 mental health calls a month.

Last week, Brilbeck said officers encountered a suicidal man who was in a serious mental and emotional breakdown.

“We were able to calm him down using this device, using one of the counselors and preventing suicide,” Brilbeck said.

The deputies are certified in Crisis Intervention Training, but say therapists are the best people to help with mental health situations.

“We were able to stay in our role and let the police officers stay in their role, but helping each other do what we do best,” said NorthCare’s Beth Combs.

“There could be a lot of reasons why the situation doesn’t come down to the level we want,” Lt. Bradley said. “It could be the uniform. It could be many different things. That’s where this tablet has come into play.”

The devices are two weeks old and have already been used more than a dozen times.

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