9-8-8 and the New First Responder

By Dru Clarke, Customer Success Manager at Carbyne

Imagine the following scene in your mind’s eye. A concerned citizen dials 911 for a man walking down the sidewalk talking to himself, he seems angry and aggressive to the caller.  The 911 call taker processes the necessary information including location, name, phone number, subject description, age, race, sex, height, hair color, and eye color. They assess whether there are weapons, drugs or alcohol involved and if the subject seems to be a harm to himself or others.  After processing this information, they assign a code to the call and dispatch police fire or ems and move on to the next call.  For our 911 call takers using some of the best emergency medical services software in the US, this is standard practice.  However for the man walking down the street, what happens next could be life-altering.  This man is sixteen times more likely to die upon interaction with law enforcement due to possible mental illness.

I have been that call taker on the other end of the phone “just doing my job” when the policy states “if they want an officer, send an officer”.  I have been that concerned caller finding a suicide note written from someone I love, rushing to their place to find them bleeding from their wrists pleading with me not to call 911.  And I have been that man, that brother, that son, a hopeful future father, that community member suffering in silence and on the brink of suicide when my shoulders were a little too frail to carry the world.  As 911 professionals using public safety communication management software, we will always be the first of the first responders.  There is no other 3-digit number within a public safety call center that does what we do, as effectively as we do, and with the professionalism and poise that we do it.  However, just because we can do it all in an emergency call center, does not mean we should.  We are entering a pivotal moment in history where we can create real systemic change by ushering in a new framework as an alternative to 911 call taking, a new level of service, a new first responder that has the time, resources, and capacity to serve our vulnerable communities with the level of care that they deserve.

By some estimates, 40% of our population suffers from mental illness and substance abuse, an estimated 48,000 people die from suicide each year, and an estimated 86% of mental health calls result in hospitalization.  To put these numbers in perspective, roughly one in five 911 calls processed by emergency call handling software involves mental health or substance abuse.  While police departments are starting to adopt crisis intervention training, only an estimated 16 % of the nation’s police force is currently trained.  Police officers are trained to mitigate threats using emergency response software for incident management, but what they view as a threat is primarily seen through a public safety lens and not a public health lens. To solve these deep-rooted challenges, America is rolling out the 9-8-8 mental health hotline nationwide as part of a new emergency response platform, and by July 16, 2022 all phone service providers will direct all 9-8-8 calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. With this will be born a new class of first responders with the right skillset to provide the right care for people like the man walking down the sidewalk talking to himself we discussed earlier, and transform the situation from one of public safety to one of public health.

Whether you are a caller, a call-taker, dispatcher, police officer, firefighter, or paramedic, Carbyne is committed to providing you and your organization with the tools so you can provide the right emergency response for your community, because every person counts. To schedule a free Carbyne demo, please visit https://carbyne.com/wtt.

Carbyne (Headquartered in New York, NY) is a leading global provider of cloud-native mission-critical contact center solutions. Carbyne is one of the largest rich-data providers for emergency response centers, delivering over 250M data points per year all in a unified platform. Our technologies enable emergency contact centers and select enterprises to connect with callers as well as connected devices via highly secure communication channels without needing to download a consumer app. With a mission to redefine emergency collaboration and connect the dots between people, enterprises and governments, Carbyne provides a unified cloud native solution that provides live actionable data that can lead to more efficient and transparent operations and ultimately save lives. With Carbyne, every person counts.