Jacksonville-Onslow first to deploy mental health crisis safety system


JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Onslow County Sheriff’s deputies and Jacksonville police officers are the first in the country to deploy a new safety system for an emergency response to persons suffering from mental health challenges in crisis.

HealthIM is designed to provide safer and more evidence-informed emergency response to first responders.

The system gathers information on interactions with law enforcement by persons who may be having a mental health crisis. The system helps make appropriate decisions about the care for the person, including potential de-escalation suggestions and emergency notifications for the person before an interaction.

The system includes partnerships with Onslow Memorial Hospital, local mobile crisis providers and Dix Crisis Intervention Center.

“We have worked hard to develop a continuum of care in our community that affords the proper care to those experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis,” said Sheri Slater, Onslow County Assistant County Manager.  “HealthIM is a tool that supports our law enforcement officers so they can in turn protect the health and safety of the public.” Mrs. Slater was part of the County leadership for the creation of the Dix Crisis Intervention Center and oversees health and human services for Onslow County.

Funding for the new program came from a competitive grant awarded by the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program. The Onslow County Sheriff’s Office and Jacksonville Police Department spent two years conducting due diligence research and testing of the system, which was originally developed in Ontario, Canada.

“We’ve had some great success with the Dix Crisis Center and we’ve wanted a continuum of care, the next step so to speak,” said Jacksonville Director of Public Safety and Police Chief Mike Yaniero. “This program prepares first responders for contact with persons known to have issues, and instead of leaving it to law enforcement to figure it out repeatedly, it helps guide the right type of care to these people in need.”

The system prioritizes the safety of persons in crisis, as well as law enforcement, health personnel, and other first responders. Important safety information from previous law enforcement encounters is presented to responders before they arrive on the scene.

At the scene, officers are guided through an evidence-based rapid risk assessment to support on-scene decision-making and communication. Violence prevention summaries are automatically generated and securely transmitted to the hospital or to the Dix Crisis Intervention Center to facilitate a safer transition of care.

Authorities anticipate the use of the program and procedures will provide for an increase in public safety and a reduction in repeat interactions among high-risk people with mental illness and even those with mental illness and substance abuse.

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