Kandiyohi and Willmar Law Enforcement and Civic Leaders Join Forces to Bring Innovative Tech Service to the Area

Published in Emergency Services, News

Author: Staff

The Willmar Ambulance Service to be the first emergency medical services agency in MN to use the Vitals™ App

Law enforcement and emergency medical technicians in Kandiyohi County and Willmar will begin using the Vitals™ App next month as a way to improve interactions between first responders and people living with invisible and visible conditions and disabilities.

The Vitals™ App is a new technology designed to create safer interactions between first responders and people using the app. A first of its kind, the Vitals™ First Responder App, is a non-intrusive, real-time resource developed as a way to enhance policing and give individuals with various conditions and their families more peace of mind.

The Vitals™ App is a free service that can be downloaded in the Apple and Google Play stores by individuals and caregivers. The following are the most common conditions and/or disabilities listed by existing users: mental health, anxiety, traumatic brain injury, autism, dementia, PTSD, diabetes, epilepsy, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, developmental, behavioral and intellectual.

A total of 91 area first responders will be trained to use the app – 35 Kandiyohi sheriff deputies, 26 Willmar police officers, and 30 Willmar emergency medical technicians.

Sheriff Dan Hartog sees Vitals™ as a great resource to help deputies interact with people who could be considered vulnerable at times. “I think it’s great that we can use technology to keep our residents safer. We are excited about the potential of the Vitals™ App,” Hartog said.

Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt said launching Vitals™ perfectly aligns with the department’s vision to provide a safer community through a partnership with its citizens. “Our officers are continuously looking for ways to respond more effectively to calls involving people with disabilities and conditions that aren’t always apparent,” said Felt. “The Vitals™ App will give our officers a tool to use when people can’t speak for themselves.”

With this launch, the Willmar Ambulance Service, a department of Carris Health, becomes the first EMS agency in Minnesota to utilize the Vitals™ App. All six Willmar EMS vehicles will be equipped with IPADs set up to receive the signal when they approach a potential patient.

“This app has the potential to help us better understand our patients and the situations we might be called into,” said Brad Hanson, Director of EMS. “It can be particularly helpful in settings where there may be a disability, or an elderly person, who has medical information that is valuable for us to know as we arrive to help them.”

After learning about Vitals™, Willmar resident Paula Bredberg made it her mission to bring the service to Kandiyohi County. She introduced the service to the sheriff’s office, police department, United Way, Rotary Club, and the Willmar Area Community Foundation. Bredberg’s adult son had an unfortunate encounter with law enforcement a few years ago and she sees the Vitals™ App as a way to prevent such an incident from happening to others.

“We commend Paula for introducing Vitals™ to her community. Her passion is making a difference,” said Janeé Harteau, president of Vitals™ Aware Services. “We know that making communities safer is everyone’s job, not just law enforcement. Kandiyohi County and Willmar are launching Vitals™ the right way – with strong community support.”

In collaboration with the sheriff’s office and the police department, the Willmar Community Foundation and the United Way of West Central MN partnered to raise seed money to expedite the launch of Vitals™. They wanted to get the service launched as soon as possible and not wait for the 2019 fiscal year.

“We didn’t want any delays in bringing this much-needed service to our county. We felt this innovative service could have an immediate community impact,” said Sara Carlson, executive director of the Willmar Area Community Foundation.

The Kandiyohi County Attorney’s Office also got involved by contributing money from the confiscated vehicle sales fund which is earmarked to support community safety programs.

“We saw this project as an ideal way for community government and civic organizations to collaborate to bring a great service to the county,” said James Miller, executive director of United Way. “This is the kind of collaboration that we are always wanting to be a part of. There are so many needs in a community. Our work is most effective when we have multiple parties passionately pursuing the same goals.”

Vitals™ Aware Services was launched in August of 2017 and with this announcement has expanded to 30 public safety agencies.

About Vitals™ Aware Services

Vitals™ works by equipping first responders with information voluntarily provided by Vitals™ enrollees. Law enforcement and other first responders download the Vitals™ First Responder app on their cellphones. The service allows a vulnerable person to register online, then wear a beacon that takes the form of a keychain, necklace, debit card or bracelet. An Android phone can also serve as the beacon. When a Vitals™ user comes within 80 feet of an officer or first responder equipped with the service, the officer will get a notification about the person’s diagnosis and how they may best interact with them.

The Twin Cities-based tech company developed the app-based service in partnership with The Autism Society of Minnesota. The service was launched in August of 2017 in St. Paul. Vitals™ is also partnering with PACER Center, the Arc Minnesota, Wellness in the Woods and Hammer Residences to build awareness and promote the service to potential users and their families. To learn more about Vitals™, go to www.thevitalsapp.com.