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Technology and Mental Health

The use of technology in treating mental health continues to evolve every year.  Mental health support through technology can be very simple, but also very effective.  For example, anyone with the ability to send a text message can contact a crisis center.  New apps may also help to connect a person with a counselor or monitor behavior patterns.  In Houston, a pilot program aimed at developing new types of intervention for individuals with a mental illness who become involved with law enforcement has shown a lot of success.                  

The first phase of the program was completed in December 2017.  Three deputies from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office took part in the program and were equipped with iPads.  JSA Health Telepsychiatry provided psychiatrists for the program and Cloud 9, a tech company in Austin developed the software for the program called Cloud911.  When the deputies arrived on the scene of a mental health emergency, the individual in crisis was offered the option of talking with a psychiatrist through the Cloud911 app on the iPad.

The telepsychiatry appointments would typically last 20 minutes and by the end of each session, the psychiatrist would make a recommendation.  Medication could be prescribed immediately and the first responder could even pick up the meds for the individual.  If the session with the psychiatrist did not help to de-escalate the situation, the Cloud911 app could locate a facility with an open bed.  If no bed or hospitalization was needed and the situation improved, police were able to leave the scene.  

 Although the first phase only involved a small number of deputies and situations, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office has already applied for a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) for phase two.  The next phase would provide iPads for 25 deputies.  By allowing law enforcement to de-escalate situations quicker and enabling individuals in a mental health crisis the opportunity to receive immediate assistance, this program shows a lot of promise.


Lori Atkinson, Operations Assistant for The Kim Foundation,

Lori Atkinson joined The Kim Foundation in May 2015 as an Operations Assistant.  She received her Bachelor’s Degree from UNL in Middle Level Education. She was an 8th grade English teacher in the Omaha Public Schools for ten years and started a small non-profit in her husband’s memory in 2010. Lori assists with many of the day-to-day tasks for The Kim Foundation which includes scheduling presentations in the community, coordinating booths at conferences, attending mental health trainings, researching mental illness/suicide, and working community events.  Lori is the proud mom of three children and is actively involved in her church.