An app that could save lives

A Washington Post data base of police shootings indicates about 1 in 5 police encounters that end in a fatality involve a person with mental illness. Often, friends or family members may call police to assist when something is going wrong with someone, but the encounter spirals out of control and ends in violence.

Brown County authorities are trying a smart phone app that may help them deal with these situations. The Vitals app allows individuals to create a personalized profile to help inform first responders about the irvarious, specialized needs and conditions. They wear a beacon that will transmit this information. When police or first responders approach such an individual, their phones will receive a message letting them know someone has a disability or condition, and suggestions about how to approach them and help them. They can get contact information. It may help police de-escalate a situation, or help EMTs by providing health information more quickly, especially in a case where someone has collapsed.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Office and New Ulm Police have been using the program. It is a voluntary program — people who want to participate sign up and set up their own profile. It sounds like a helpful program that could prevent dangerous confrontations, or quicker emergency health services.


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