Volusia County deputies able to link people to mental health counselors within minutes

Professional counselors can speak with people in crisis via iPads

DELTONA, Fla. – It’s typically found in your home but now, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office is using iPads to help get results while responding to mental health calls.

“As long as it takes for the supervisor to (get) the scene, set it up, and give it to them, it’s within minutes,” said Captain Lou Marino.

Deputies received training on how to use the devices Wednesday but the office took it for a test run on the previous day to help a veteran suffering from PTSD.

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“The person didn’t meet Baker Act criteria but the person clearly was in mental distress and needed some type of professional help,” said Sheriff Mike Chitwood of the Florida law that allows someone to be detained for emergency medical care.

Chitwood said they currently have six iPads that were donated by FP&L.

A psychologist or psychiatrist from Stewart Marchman will be ready to speak with the person for however long it takes.

“We then hand that iPad to the individual. We leave and allow them to communicate privately,” said Marino.

Chitwood said the conversation will be just the start of the person getting help.

“The psychologist who he spoke to last night is able to reach out to his psychologist with the V.A. and the ball starts rolling. They’re in the system now,” he said.

The sheriff said about 78% of their calls are mental health or substance abuse issues now.

“All of our dispatchers have been trained in mental health crisis. Phase two is these iPads being rolled out in Deltona,” he said.

It’s all part of the office’s plan to strengthen its response to these calls.

“What we’re looking to do probably at the end of this year, early 2022, is have psychologists in dispatch itself,” said Chitwood.

About the Author:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.