According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the recent pandemic resulted in a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. The reasons for this vary, but it is believed primarily due to the unprecedented stress of social isolation, financial strain, job loss, physical illness, and the loss of loved ones. As such, it is important to provide a customized response to mental health crisis calls.
Early concerns regarding possible increases in mental health issues did prompt several countries to include mental health support in Covid-19 response plans, but significant gaps remain. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, stated: “This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health.”
These statistics made it clear to everyone that the time had come to provide a customized response to mental health crisis calls. The World Health Organization has taken a step forward in that direction with its Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan.
The plan outlines several steps countries can take to improve their mental health response. These steps include such things as:
- Strengthening effective leadership and governance
- Providing comprehensive, integrated, and responsive mental health and social care in community-based settings
- Implementing strategies for promotion and prevention
- Strengthening information systems, evidence, and research
The Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan is a testament to countries’ shared vision and strong commitment regarding mental health with clear objectives and defined targets. The Plan has paved the way for a better approach to mental health crises that emphasizes community and evidence-based care, a recovery approach, and respect for the human rights of those afflicted with these disorders.
Across the United States, this commitment has resulted in the rise of more effective crisis intervention programs.
In the United States today, there exist several crisis intervention models. These include CIT, Co-Responders, LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), and Community Responders.
Though these models vary in structure and methods, they all have a common goal: to provide a customized response to mental health crisis calls. All the models mentioned understand that a customized response requires the cooperation of law enforcement, mental health professionals, peer and family support, and community partners.
These community partnerships are the foundation of a successful mental health response. Community collaboration is vital to any long-term problem-solving strategy for crisis intervention. Police cannot impact mental health response alone.
Community leaders must become full partners in the advancement of community policing with a shared vision of the proper handling of mental health crisis calls. Effective partnerships can mean the difference between a successful intervention and a tragedy.
Maximizing Effectiveness by Leveraging the Use of Locally Available Resources
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to how mental health crisis response services should be delivered at the community level. Instead, each locale must match the resources available in their jurisdiction to the community’s needs.
Differences from one place to another can be vast, so it’s essential to maximize the effectiveness of the response by leveraging locally available resources. In addition, because crisis services must be delivered locally, it’s necessary to focus on the local resources that can be enlisted to support mental health crisis response.
Communities should determine what local mental health, law enforcement, and social services can do to improve or fill gaps in existing services. Julota’s interoperability platform can help communities by multiplying the impact of existing local services. In addition, collaboration can be established between first responders, clinicians, and caseworkers to track data and identify areas needing improvement or revision.
Robust Technology is Critical to Customized Mental Health Response
According to facts collected by the Pew Research Center, as of 2021, 97% of Americans owned a cell phone, 85% of which owned smartphones, compared to only 35% a decade ago. They also stated that 72% of adults use at least one social media site. As more than 43 million Americans experience a mental health condition, we can see how technology can play a crucial role in their lives.
In addition to general use, the presence of technology in our everyday lives is helping to inform both population and individual data, transforming the face of mental health. As such, technology is helping to transform mental health care in new ways.
On an individual basis, telehealth has become an integral part of mental health care, providing unforeseen options even a few years ago. In addition, technology is being used effectively in many crisis intervention models on a larger scale.
A robust technology solution is critical to implement a customized mental health response. As a result, numerous law enforcement agencies nationwide have chosen Julota’s award-winning platform as their technology.
It is the first and only solution built to connect the “helper” communities of law enforcement, EMS/fire, and community collaborators. Its compliant cloud-based platform enables a community to implement critical initiatives like CIT teach, Co-Responders, and LEAD programs.
One of the most significant challenges to effective mental health response is the lack of coordinated data sharing and collection. Through partnerships with community members and community resources, Julota has changed how First Responders respond to a mental health crisis.
Using cloud computing technology, Julota allows community partners to coordinate and provide vital real-time information. For example, when directed to a call, first responders will arrive with all the information needed, such as previous calls from the individual and the disposition of those calls.
The information can also help them to be able to identify possible “triggers” for the person and understand what to say and what not to say in a crisis. Julota’s powerful data visualization tools provide the ability to take mountains of raw data and extract patterns to show actionable insights. This individualized approach allows for greater empathy for the person in crisis and a better outcome for them and the first responders.
Mental Health Crisis Calls Need a Customized Approach
Across the country, law enforcement and mental health professionals alike are recognizing that mental health crises need a more personalized approach. Crisis intervention and de-escalation are only one part of the solution. Mental health providers themselves are offering alternatives to hospitals and inpatient care. In Minnesota, M Health Fairview developed an outpatient treatment model called EmPATH (The Emergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment, and Healing).
The unit consists of an open-concept room at Southdale Hospital which contains TVs, recliners, refreshment stations, and tablets with guided meditation and music options. Dr. Lew Zeidner, M Health Fairview’s system director for clinical triage and transition services, said of the unit: “We knew that there was a better way to do this…We’ve created an environment much more conducive to supporting someone in a crisis…A traditional emergency department…is fast-paced, loud, they have a lot of rules, and none of that is very helpful to someone in a crisis.”
The facility is already seeing a reduction in inpatient hospital units. Before EmPATH, approximately 40% of patients entering the hospital for a mental health crisis were admitted. According to Zeidner, that number has dropped to 17%.
The Stepped Care Model is another personalized approach to mental health care that has recently emerged. The model is person-centric, focuses on the strengths of the individuals and their community, and provides diverse options for care. The system uses the most effective yet least resource-intensive treatment first, “stepping up” to more intensive services as required.
In the initial stage, it encourages guided self-help, support from family and friends, advocates and peer support, and occupational support. As the individual “steps up,” short-term interventions and intensive/specialist services may be used if clinically required.
Admittedly, the recent pandemic brought about a radical increase in mental health problems, but it also caused the United States and other countries to reimagine their response. It became clear that a customized response to mental health crisis calls was needed.
Organizations also began to realize that people and organizations across the mental health spectrum were all working toward a common goal. Previously, everyone had remained somewhat in their respective silos, unaware of the goals and efforts of others.
However, many are now realizing that collaboration among law enforcement and other disciplines is more than just helpful; it is the only way to be successful. Today, community collaboration models such as CIT, Co-Response, LEAD, and others are taking up the gauntlet to find ways to better serve the crisis needs in their communities.
With Julota’s dynamic data collection and analysis capabilities, they empower human services organizations to use data to make individual and community-wide mental health care decisions. Julota’s very name is an acronym for Just Love On Them Always, which reflects its creed to provide better care coordination, patient navigation, and data sharing for this vulnerable population.