$3.8M grant connects rural sheriffs with telehealth program to manage mental health crisis response

Deputies will use iPads to give people in crisis access to a mental health professional


By Anne Berleant  

LAS VEGAS — One in five calls to law enforcement involve a person who may be experiencing a mental health crisis, according to the national nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center, and rural telehealth services significantly help close that gap. 

Nevada’s 3.1 million residents are spread over 110,567 square miles, making access to mental health services challenging. But a $3.8 million grant awarded to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services will launch Virtual Crisis Care. The program will provide law enforcement with 24/7 access to counselors to assist when responding to mental health crisis calls.  

Officers can call a crisis response team to request a safety assessment and then hand the tablet to the person in need so they can connect with a mental health professional.
Officers can call a crisis response team to request a safety assessment and then hand the tablet to the person in need so they can connect with a mental health professional. (Photo/Nevada DHHS)

Officers can call a crisis response team at Avel eCare to request a safety assessment and then hand the tablet to the person in need so they can connect with a mental health professional. The grant will equip 11 law enforcement agencies across Nevada with iPads to facilitate the program. 

The goal is to divert residents experiencing mental health crises to community care options. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the donor, and Nevada DHHS announced the launch of Virtual Crisis Care on June 30. 

Virtual Crisis Care is modeled after a South Dakota pilot program that connects officers with trained experts to de-escalate mental health crises such as suicide ideation, self-harm and depression.  

The program diverted 75% of people who confronted police during a mental or behavioral crisis into community-based care instead of jail, the Association of Health Care Journalists noted in 2021. 

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