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Baraga County law enforcement agencies to implement Avel eCare’s Virtual Crisis Care Program

November 14, 2023 | By Admin

Innovative co-responder model will assist officers in de-escalating situations involving a mental health crisis by providing on-demand access to behavioral health professionals

Baraga County Memorial Hospital and Baraga County Sheriff's Department announce the launch of a groundbreaking co-responder model called Virtual Crisis Care.

Kevin Store at BCMH Press ConferenceWith the generous support of Copper Shores Community Health Foundation and the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, Baraga County law enforcement agencies and Baraga County Memorial Hospital are taking a significant step forward in addressing behavioral health crises within the community.

This innovative telemedicine program is delivered by Avel eCare, a nationwide telemedicine provider, and will support law enforcement officers with on-demand access to behavioral health professionals who can assess individuals having a mental health crisis and make informed recommendations for managing the situation. This collaborative effort is funded by Copper Shores Community Health Foundation, the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and is supported by Baraga County Memorial Hospital.

“We’re proud to sponsor this program that will reduce the potential for harm, minimize arrests, and improve outcomes for individuals with behavioral health needs – leading to a safer, healthier community,” said Kevin Store, Presidenft/CEO of Copper Shores Community Health Foundation. “I am grateful for the leadership and focus on community health that Rob (Stowe) has demonstrated for the people of that community.”

“Programs such as these – which provide citizen-focused, upstream behavioral health interventions – help reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and strengthen the fabric of community mental health,” said Rob Stowe, CEO of Baraga County Memorial Hospital. “Avel eCare is a true partner in care for our hospital, and the impact this program will have both on our team and the entire community will be significant. This effort wouldn't be possible without the leadership of Sheriff Joe Brogan pulling our local law enforcement agencies together and of course the funding support of Copper Shores and the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.”

Implementing Avel eCare’s Virtual Crisis Care program represents a significant step forward in improving responses to behavioral health crises. By incorporating the expertise of behavioral health professionals into their operations, Baraga County law enforcement agencies are setting a precedent for other communities across the nation to follow. Agencies planning to participate are: Baraga County Sheriff’s Department, Keweenaw Bay Tribal Police Department, the Village of L'Anse Police Department, the Village of Baraga Police Department, and Michigan State Police (Calumet Post).

“The Baraga County Sheriff's Office, in partnership with local police departments, recognizes the increase of mental health-related incidents and acknowledges the critical importance of providing appropriate support to individuals experiencing behavioral health crises,” said Joe Brogan, Baraga County Sheriff. “The implementation of Avel eCare will equip our deputies and officers with a powerful tool to help de-escalate tense situations and ensure those in crisis have the best care and support possible.”

Avel eCare already provides Virtual Crisis Care services to law enforcement agencies in 40 counties across South Dakota and parts of Nevada. Recently published research validated the program’s positive impact. A study published in JMIR Mental Health stated that eight out of ten law enforcement encounters utilizing Avel’s virtual co-responder model ended with citizens remaining in place – improving outcomes for the individual in crisis and preserving considerable local/county resources.

“Our mental health professionals are proud to support the Baraga County area with on-demand support, including de-escalation techniques, risk assessments, and guidance on the best course of action to ensure the safety and well-being of the individual in crisis,” said Brian Erickson, Avel’s Vice President of Behavioral Health Services. “We applaud Copper Shores Community Health Foundation, Baraga County Memorial Hospital, and all participating law enforcement agencies for supporting this effort and working together to improve access to behavioral health services in their community.”

About Baraga County Memorial Hospital

BCMH is a 15 bed critical access hospital. Founded in 1952, BCMH is a thriving rural healthcare system focused on addressing the needs of community members of Baraga County. Employing over 200 people, BCMH houses a family medicine clinic, walk-in convenient care clinic, specialty clinics, surgical services, 24/7 emergency services, imaging, rehabilitation, laboratory, Senior Life Solutions, medical equipment, and social services. The hospital’s mission is to partner with patients to educate, coordinate, treat, and manage the health of the communities.

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