Responding to Sharp Increases in Mental Health Related Calls, Brooklyn Center Police Launch Vitals™ App to Serve Vulnerable Community Members

BCPD continues strong push to partner with Mental Health Professionals; Vitals™ provides officers with a real-time tool providing crucial information directly from parents and caregivers

January 30, 2020 – In four years, the number of “check the welfare” calls Brooklyn Center Police Officers have responded to has nearly doubled. The community is asking for help, and they’re calling the police. The Brooklyn Center Police Department (BCPD) has partnered with County and social service workers to train and respond to these difficult situations. By joining the Vitals™ network, BCPD will give its officers immediate information provided by loved ones who care for vulnerable individuals. The goal is to increase the officer’s ability to de-escalate interactions.

“When we look at our numbers of mental health related calls, the increases are very significant. How can we serve our community members who may be in the middle of a crisis? We’ve provided our officers with the best training available and now we’re taking advantage of technology and opening the lines of communication between our department and the vulnerable communities we serve,” Chief Tim Gannon explained.

Vitals™ enrollees, or their family members, voluntarily provide the individualized information in this cutting-edge program revolving around technological innovation. When emergency service workers respond to calls regarding Vitals enrollees, they immediately receive important information on their smart phones that will help them de-escalate or resolve a situation by providing a response catered to a person’s specific needs and vulnerabilities.

Brooklyn Center Police serve more than 30,000 residents who live within 8.5 square miles of each other. The extremely diverse City is home to several senior living facilities and a large number of residential group homes. BCPD has been working to meet the rising challenge of the increase in mental health-related calls as statistics show the number of instances where the Department places individuals “on holds” has nearly doubled from 2014 to 2018.

“Our officers respond to suspicious person calls every single day, where residents believe they see suspicious or criminal activity.  There are many instances where the ‘suspicious person’ is a vulnerable person with a visible, or invisible, disability. From the Chief on down, every member of the Department is excited to now have information that helps us when responding to a potential crisis call.  With this added information our officers can connect residents with the helpful services they need,” Commander Rick Gabler remarked.

The Department describes its recent work of addressing an emerging trend by using a non-traditional response. More and more police departments believe arresting people isn’t a viable or sustainable solution. Dozens of policing agencies across the country signed up for Vitals™ services in 2019.

“We commend Brooklyn Center Police and all the agencies we have the privilege of working with. By providing police officers with the tools and technology they need to do their difficult jobs, these departments are exponentially increasing the chances for safe and successful resolutions to calls for service. We’re taking an individual approach by giving caregivers a voice in law enforcement interactions. It empowers vulnerable children and adults, officers, caregivers and entire communities,” Vitals President/CEO Janeé Harteau said.

Vitals™ Aware Services was launched in August of 2017. Approximately 75 first responding agencies and a handful of school districts are currently using the community-based service. Originally starting with service in Minnesota, Vitals™ has now expanded into North Carolina, Massachusetts and California, as law enforcement agencies, health care providers, schools and advocacy groups spread the word and work together to bring this game-changing technology to their communities.

About Vitals™ Aware Services

Vitals™ works by equipping first responders with information voluntarily provided by Vitals™ enrollees. Law enforcement and other first responders download the Vitals™ First Responder app on their cellphones. The service allows a vulnerable person to register online, then wear a beacon that takes the form of a keychain, necklace, debit card or bracelet. An Android phone can also serve as the beacon. When a Vitals™ user comes within 80 feet of an officer or first responder equipped with the service, the officer will get a notification about the person’s diagnosis and how they may best interact with them.

To learn more about Vitals™, go to www.thevitalsapp.com.