OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Derrel Fincher, R-Bartlesville, hosted an interim study today examining the use of mobile technology that helps provide mental health support for people interacting with law enforcement and that can be used by the officers themselves.
The study was held before the House Public Safety Committee.
“This study showed a product already in use in our state is helping improve mental health services to those in need and saving police and other law enforcement offices hours of their time and thousands of dollars in travel and other expenses,” Fincher said.
Fincher said he requested this study so other lawmakers could see the benefit of the First Responder product currently being used by in conjunction with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) throughout northeast and north central Oklahoma.
Larry Smith, chief executive officer, and Josh Cantwell, chief operating officer, of GLMHC, provided an overview of the product and its savings for law enforcement and the help it provides the community members they serve.
Smith said currently about 750 officers and emergency rooms are provided an iPad loaded with the First Responder software. When an officer interacts with someone exhibiting mental health issues, they are able to push one button and access therapists, behavioral health specialists or other mental health professionals to assess the individual on the spot without having to take that person to an emergency room or other facility for an assessment.
This saves officers hours of time of transporting individuals and waiting with them while they are evaluated. It also gets the individual the help they need in the least restrictive environment, which leads to better health outcomes in the long run. This, in turn saves the state thousands of dollars spent on treatment beds that may not be necessary once an individuals’ true needs are met, he said.
He showed the product saved law enforcement 360,861 miles traveled to treatment facilities and 263 days of non-stop driving, all of which equaled 14 trips around the world, and it saved $324,446.98 from their local budgets.
Almost 2,500 individuals who have been assessed with a mental health need have been sent home with the iPads, Smith said. This helps them continue to receive the help they need without further need for interaction with law enforcement.
Bartlesville Police Capt. Kevin Ickleberry and Jim Warring, a former Bartlesville Police officer and now a law enforcement engagement professional with GLMHC, said the First Responder product is a big deal for law enforcement, particularly in rural areas where care is often hours away. It helps officers make decisions in the field and return to duty quicker, and it results in better care for consumers.
Carrie Slatton-Hodges, interim director for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said First Responder is proving to be very valuable in getting the people the help they need without escalation to an acute situation that requires intervention by law enforcement or in-patient treatment.
The study also focused on Phase II of the First Responder program, which will allow law enforcement officers to utilize the already provided technology to seek mental health support for themselves from their vehicle, home or office.
Smith said law enforcement officers die 25 years younger than the average population because of job stress and repeated exposure to trauma. He said offering this product to these officers will help save their lives.
Recently it was announced that Gov. Stitt approved the use of federal CARES Act funds for Phase II of the First Responder product, Fincher said. This was achieved through the support of Slatton-Hodges and ODMHSAS, he said.
“I was excited today to show the success of this model currently used by GLMHC and to encourage its use throughout the state,” Fincher said. “This will give first responders access to trauma counseling instantly 24/7 in the least restrictive environment possible, and that will save lives and the state precious resources.”