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Local police department receives iPads to help respond to mental health calls

Barling Police Department partners with an Arkansas non-profit to equip law enforcement with new tools to begin its better response program for mental health crises.

BARLING, Ark. — The Barling Police Department now has a new tool to help better respond to mental health crisis calls after the department says it has received an estimate of about 50 crisis calls this year.

A southern Arkansas non-profit, A.C.T., partnered with the Barling and Magnolia Police Departments to expand telehealthcare access. Barling received 12 fresh iPads on Tuesday to begin the better response program with the iPads only having one function.

“When these officers roll up on a scene with someone in a mental health crisis, they can actually push a button on the iPad there and go directly to a mental health professional, a live call so we can get them that next level of care,” Barling Police Chief, Darrell Spells said.

He added the department looked for a little over a year for solutions for better mental health management and this program will help build a bridge for those who don’t have ready access to resources or direct health care.

“So certainly, we feel the need is there and this going to be a valuable resource to help the community. And another thing is it’s also available to our officers,” Spells said.

Diane Bynum, CEO at Lumina Behavioral Health services, says this could push for better infrastructure in the broader state of Arkansas. While the President’s infrastructure bill is up for debate, it could bring benefits to Arkansas, especially with rural areas that may not have access to the internet. Diane says better access to the internet could bring help and resources to the people.

“Social distancing, staying home, and it has now become a very important part of providing services to those across the state of Arkansas because prior to that rural Arkansas did not have access to healthcare like they do now. Not only in mental health, but physical health,” Bynum said.

The iPad program will provide care for more than citizens in need. The program will also help address stigmas surrounding mental health in law enforcement.

“The stigma that’s associated with officers seeking help is something we definitely need to change across the country,” Spells said.

The Barling police officers will begin training within the next week.

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