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Chico Police Department uses technology to address mental health

The Chico Police Department is turning to technology to help address the issue of mental health for first-responders

Posted: Sep 24, 2019 8:13 AM

CHICO, Calif. -- During the Camp Fire, dozens of Chico Police Department personnel rushed into harms way to help others. Now, almost eleven months since the fire, the department is turning to enhanced technology to support the mental, emotional and physical well-being of staff.

Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough recently sat down with Police Chief Michael O'Brien to learn more about a new mobile app designed to counteract any lingering effects of trauma from the fire.

For the many officers who responded, body-camera video captured harrowing moments of flames all around. While staff responded to calls to help people in the path of the fire, many of those same officers watched as the fire consumed their own homes; losing everything. Many dispatchers working that morning took calls for help from people they could not help.

Chief O'Brien says situations like this can lead to stress. He says many times an individual may look okay on the surface and appear well-adjusted and not impacted but no one knows what may truly be going on inside. He says the question for the department is how to best take care of staff, so they can properly take care of the community.

The department is now turning to technology to address the issue. All staff members will soon have access, via their phones, to a mobile known known as CORDICO.  It allows staff 24/7 private and confidential access to mental health help and support.

The decision to add this mobile app is in part, say O'Brien, because of the Camp Fire.

He says the department must be ready for anything and he believes being proactive is the best option.

While the department has not experienced a member suffering from trauma which then leads to an individual harming themselves, across the nation the reality of law enforcement stress and suicide is gaining more attention.

The organization Blue H.E.L.P. tracks nationwide officer suicides. The advocacy group reports a total of 578 verified law enforcement suicides from January, 2016 through June of this year.

Chief O'Brien says the very nature of the culture of law enforcement can make it difficult to recognize those who may need assistance. He says officers typically will not raise their hands to say, "Hey, I need help." The Chief says he is hopeful using technology will help in reaching those who may not otherwise ask for help, especially because the mobile app is completely confidential and private.

The program came at a cost of little of 30-thousand dollars. That amount was not in the department budget, but O'Brien says a local church recognized the need and saw the value in the program and covered the full cost.

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Winds have calmed down but we remain dry. Temperatures will be in the upper-70s to low-80s for the rest of the week. This quiet weather is good for fire danger but unfortunate since no rain is in the forecast.
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