New app will help Duluth police access help with mental health

Updated: October 20, 2020 06:19 PM

Being in law enforcement these days is extra stressful, with some officers saying it's the worst they've felt in their entire careers.

But there is help on the way, in Duluth. 

It's coming by way of an app called PeerConnect. "We will be the first police department in the United States that has this app," shared Lt. Jeff Kazel, who is the Peer Support coordinator.

The department already has a Peer Support team, which is about two dozen officers and retirees who are trained to help their colleagues out. The app will bring all of them together.

"We're going from having a list of 26 people and their phone numbers, to actually having them right there available for those who need help right away," Kazel said.

The app will connect people with a touch of a button, to Peer Support members, chaplains, and a clinical psychologist. One push, and your request for contact goes out.

"We really do have a lot of resources. But to organize them and make them super easy be accessible, is a huge part of this," shared Dr. Heather Rose-Carlson, a clinical psychologist and the Peer Support Clinician. "The entry point is through your peers. But you can also get connected with an employee assistance program (EAP), or my clinic."

You can customize who you want to be on your team. It doesn't have to be all of the people who are technically on the team.

Although it tracks information about how many requests for contact come in, it is completely confidential.

The goal is to help officers and staff manage stress and other mental health issues like anxiety, before they interfere with work and family life. "In any service industry, our number one asset is our employees. If you can't take care of your employees, physically, mentally, and spiritually, you're not going to be able to get the job done. This will help us get the job done," Kazel added.

Plus it will have resources like videos and articles about mental health loaded in the newsfeed, and sections for training and self-assessments.

It will also help family members of DPD get connected too.

The app was developed by First Response Mental Health, based in Canada. They are donating a year's worth of services as part of this pilot project.

The plan is to have PeerConnect rolled out by the end of the year, for the approximately 200 civilian and sworn-in officers.

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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