New software helps first responders deal with mental health crises

JACKSONVILLE, NC (WITN) – The City of Jacksonville and the County of Onslow will use a new Canadian computer program called HealthIM to help first responders respond more appropriately to mental health crises.

The city and county are striving to stay at the forefront of technological developments by becoming the first in the country to deploy a safety system for emergency responses to people experiencing mental health and substance abuse crises.

The program allows the various county primary response teams to use a dataset to respond to relevant calls related to mental health and substance abuse issues.

County officials told reporters that many of those dispatch calls are for repeat patients, and the data allows for more efficient responses.

Onslow County Col. Chris Thomas explained the intangibles that the program provides to first responders, saying, “They have an opportunity to build a relationship with them. When other officers [not with the city or the county] Show, they don’t have that relationship.”

The program itself helps build a database of individuals so that respondents are aware of topics that may be starting points and respondents can develop strategies to mitigate situations.

Onslow County 911 chief Ray Silance explained how the program is a better protection tool for both responders and those receiving assistance.

“We are able to do things like this not just to protect our responders, but to help those citizens out on the street, and when they need help, we’re not just going to respond to you and arrest you. We know what you’re dealing with. Using HealthIM, you’ll tell us how we can talk to you, And how can we safely approach you to get rid of your escalation, and everything works out better.”

County officials say the HealthIM publication grew out of concerns about an opioid epidemic.

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