Law enforcement is increasingly called on to respond to mental health or substance abuse crises across the country. Officers and deputies who answer these calls – while motivated to serve their communities and possessing a desire to help – often lack the clinical training to accurately and effectively assess and support individuals in mental health crisis. Avel eCare’s Crisis Care program seeks to bridge this gap.
Since 2020, this innovative virtual co-responder program provides law enforcement with 24/7 access to behavioral health professionals who can assist in responding to people experiencing a mental health crisis. To do so, the program utilizes cellular-enabled tablets to connect behavioral health professionals with law enforcement to assist with de-escalation, stabilization and safety assessment during crisis situations regardless of the location, whether it is on the side of the road or in a living room. Importantly, the support does not cease following the initial crisis response. Crisis Care’s unique model ensures individuals who were in crisis are connected to local mental health resources for follow-up care.
The Beginnings: Virtual Crisis Care
Crisis Care began in 2020 as a partnership with Avel eCare, the Unified Judicial System of South Dakota, and the Helmsley Charitable Trust to provide South Dakota law enforcement with access to a behavioral health crisis team. Eventually, what started as a limited program with a few pilot sites grew into a state-wide effort. The program currently serves 40+ counties in South Dakota and has helped law enforcement respond to hundreds of crisis calls. Click HERE to watch a news story featuring one of the first Sheriff’s Departments to adopt the service, Pennington County.
Thanks to the success of the South Dakota program, the Helmsley Trust generously funded the expansion of Virtual Crisis Care into the State of Nevada. The first site went live in 2022, and the program continues to grow and expand its impact in the state.
Crisis Care is built on a model that provides early intervention and behavioral health expertise to avoid involuntary holds. If utilized appropriately, Crisis Care can help law enforcement reduce the time, resources, and manpower associated with involuntary holds and ensuring the individuals in crisis receive the most appropriate care possible.
The Future: Crisis Care, Anywhere
Avel eCare has capacity to expand the program, and is looking to other States, Counties, and Municipalities to help by offering virtual co-responder services. This also includes higher education institutions. Starting in 2023, Avel eCare entered into a first-of-its-kind partnership with the South Dakota State University to provide Crisis Care services in support of their University Police Department (UPD).
By partnering with Avel, UPD can call our team of behavioral health experts while responding to student mental health crises in real-time. Once our expert completes an assessment, they can recommend to the officer a course of action, whether it is wait until the morning for follow up (because the student is stable) or to contact the counselor on-call because the student needs immediate assistance. With the rate of college student mental health issues on the rise, this program offers a responsive, interactive, and adaptable solution for colleges and universities to help support students and their wellbeing.