App helps first responders help in medical emergencies (VIDEO)

App helps first responders help in medical emergencies (VIDEO)

When you call 911, you only have minutes, sometimes seconds, to make a decision. So if a 911 operator has extra information, callers say, it can change the outcome of a stressful situation.

“They said she has memory loss issues. If they say she’s too confused and it escalates a little bit, that tells us how to calm her down, which connects with her daughter,” one operator says of a fictitious person used to show it are used. the Vitals app works.

Technology that allows vulnerable people or their caregivers to provide critical information to first responders about medical conditions, disabilities and mental health challenges. They can even provide de-escalation cues and techniques and behavioral triggers.

“It’s very easy in this situation if you’re able to. Hey, I’ll make the call for you instead of calling the officers and make sure they’re not committing a crime, and then if the cops call. middle exit,” says the operator.

“It’s no longer call 911, push a button, send an officer, it’s the right person,” says Jeff Swoboda, police chief in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The Fort Collins, Colorado, Police Department and University of Colorado Health Sciences partnered a year ago, making it the first in the country to focus on co-responders with the app. It is a model of behavioral health crisis response that is increasingly common among police departments and mental health professionals.

“The app allows us to get videos of mom saying, you know, Johnny, it’s okay, this officer is here to help you, bring you back to me, I mean, that’s priceless,” Swoboda said. .

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Swoboda considers the past year a success and hopes that more departments will follow his example and incorporate this into their work.

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How effective are mental health apps?

Researchers at the University of New England tested five different apps to see how effective they were at reducing anxiety symptoms.


According to the CDC, one in four adults in the United States has some form of disability. This includes everything from mobility to cognition, independent living, hearing, vision and self-care.

“They deserve to interact safely, and there have been too many scenarios, too many incidents that have had bad outcomes because people misread the signals and people didn’t take the time to learn,” Swoboda said.

In addition to being a mother and a special education teacher, Jeni Arndt is also the mayor of Fort Collins.

“I was already a special needs teacher when Henry was born. He’s very smart and has social issues, and I ended up being labeled Asperger’s,” Arndt said. “It really gives me a lot of peace of mind as a mother and as a mayor.”

Before the app existed, his son contacted the police after they accidentally linked him to an incident he was near. He says if that app had existed at the time, responding officers would have known his anxiety reaction was related to his disability.

“And you want to defuse a situation to get that person out, which makes sense to me, but it’s also very disturbing for Henry to be handcuffed in the back of a police car when he knew he didn’t break the law,” Arndt said.

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She says this app not only creates safer interactions, but also sends a bigger message to families like hers.

“I really can’t talk about this without crying. I feel good because a police service cares enough to want to add these special touches to calm someone down or de-escalate a situation, I think that’s exactly where the safety of the community and the law enforcement is the best,” Arndt said.

“Knowing that there are people who might behave a certain way when under stress, if we understand that before we interact with them, it’s better for everyone,” Swoboda said. “Ultimately, I think apps like vitals can save lives.”

The Vitals app is currently available in Minnesota, Ohio, Massachusetts, California, Missouri and Colorado. Those in Fort Collins hope to see it implemented in more places, helping to foster a cultural change in community policing.

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