Bay Area non-profit uses technology to help officers respond to mental health calls

The Largo Police Department teamed up with Clearwater-based non-profit organization Directions for Living for a program that uses technology to help officers respond to mental health-related calls for service.

Direction for Living's "TRACE" program connects people who call the police for help with a licensed clinician using a video conference call with a tablet.

"They respond to a call, if they believe that there is a mental health component to that call, they hit the button and a live counselor comes on and either works with the officer or actually hands the tablet to the individual," said April Lott, the president and CEO of Directions for Living.

Lott says officers are forced to do a lot more than what they're trained to do when responding to mental health calls.
"One of the things that we wanted to support our law enforcement officers on is that they are being asked to play the role of social worker, and counselor, and therapist," explained Lott.

The TRACE program started as a pilot program with Largo PD back in November to see if it would be successful. 
​"We wanted to see, will it work, and it is working, we've reduced unnecessary Baker Acts by 50%, it has been really good," Lott said.
More law enforcement agencies are expressing interest in the TRACE program. The Belleair Police Department started using it one month ago and eight other agencies are talking to the non-profit about incorporating it for their officers.

Those agencies include college campus police departments, Gulfport, Tarpon Springs, and the Indian Shores Police Department. 
The tablets and software are funded through a grant from the Pinellas Community Foundation.  


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