May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health is a big topic these days, and people are always on the hunt for new ways to keep loved ones with mental illnesses safe. One of ImageSoft’s latest products, SafeEncounter, was designed to help communities feel more secure in times of crisis. While ‘eligibility’ for SafeEncounter programs is up to the discretion of each district, mental health has been a unifying reason law enforcement agencies have been so interested in the product. Today, let’s briefly discuss how SafeEncounter can be a new tool in the community policing movement and an aid for those struggling with mental health issues.
What is SafeEncounter?
At its core, SafeEncounter is a digital database for law enforcement to access during emergencies. Communities everywhere want to keep track of members needing special care or accommodations, and SafeEncounter is a sleek, centralized, and secure way to do that. When a district implements the SafeEncounter program, the public can create free accounts and build profiles for vulnerable loved ones. All profiles are reviewed by police and added to the database. Profiles contain valuable information, including pictures, physical descriptions, home addresses, emergency contacts, and information about any medical conditions, mental health issues, disabilities, etc. When officers receive a call about a situation, they can refer to SafeEncounter to learn more about what method of approach they may need to use to keep the situation, and involved parties, calm
SafeEncounter is a community safety tool because it fosters positive relationships between law enforcement and members of the public. The database provides a secure and confidential place for individuals to provide important information about their physical or mental health in case they are nervous about discussing it in person or find themselves unable to communicate clearly during emergencies. In the next section, we’ll dive into a few examples of how SafeEncounter may be used for conditions that could very closely resemble some members of your own community.
Examples of SafeEncounter in use
- Dave is a 35-year-old Marine Veteran who suffers from PTSD after serving on the front lines. He is known to react severely to very loud and unexpected noises. Knowing this, his wife, Grace, helped him create a SafeEncounter profile. Dave made sure to include his triggers and the proper protocol during one of his panic attacks – do not touch. One day, Dave is at work when loud construction begins outside his office window. Dave starts to have a panic attack in response to the noise, and his coworkers are unsure what to do to help. The coworkers call 911 for assistance in helping Dave, and dispatch sends police and a medical team. On the way, responding officers search the SafeEncounter database for Dave and find his profile. They read up on his condition and note the “do not touch” protocol. When they arrive, they know to attempt to calm Dave down without touching him to avoid making his attack worse. First responders have Dave settled down within a few minutes and can chat with him about what happened.
- Monica is a freshman in college and has bipolar disorder. Her condition causes dramatic emotional swings lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several days. Her parents are worried she will go into a depressive episode since this is her first time living away from home, and she might become lonely. Her parents create a profile for her in SafeEncounter to ensure they are contacted during emergencies. They make sure to note Monica’s medications, her usual patterns of behavior in certain emotional states, and ways they’ve learned to combat outbursts of anger or aggression. This way, if Monica has a manic or depressive episode while at college, the police have all the information they need to support her until her parents can be reached.
- Louis is 24 and has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). DID causes Louis to have multiple ‘alters’ which can front at any time. Each alter has a distinctive personality and is often of different ages and gender identities. For people without exposure to DID, encountering the alters can be confusing. Louis’ family creates a profile on SafeEncounter to make first responders aware of the condition, what the alters may look like, and what Louis might need according to whoever is fronting at the time of emergency. Police will be notified Louis has DID and will know how to proceed should a crisis occur. Rather than thinking Louis is being uncooperative, officers will know to ask his name to determine who is fronting and can then proceed accordingly.
Other uses of SafeEncounter
In addition to protecting those with mental health challenges, SafeEncounter can be leveraged in many other ways. We’ve heard from districts interested in using the product to track children in case they wander off, senior citizens who live alone and are at risk of falling, etc. Another large area of interest is cognitive disabilities such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Down’s Syndrome, Autism, etc. Folks with these conditions are likely to have a hard time communicating when under immense stress, so SafeEncounter can let responding officers know the critical information needed to de-escalate the situation.
We want to reiterate, each district can determine its own “eligibility” requirements for the program. We’ve had discussions with some law enforcement agencies looking to leverage SafeEncounter for very specific individuals, but others want to encourage every single citizen to sign up in case of a freak emergency. We can work with your department to help craft messaging to send out to the public regarding who should consider creating profiles. All agencies who sign up receive a full resource folder from us to make launching within the community a breeze.
SafeEncounter is a very valuable community policing tool that is picking up steam across the United States. We are thrilled to offer the product to police looking to better prepare for crisis situations within their communities. SafeEncounter is extremely secure within the Microsoft Azure Cloud, and all profiles are kept confidential from everyone except authorized officers. To learn more about the program, please visit https://safeencounter.org/. Feel free to contact us if you’d like to see SafeEncounter in action with a demo of the platform. We look forward to working with you!