A lifesaving smartphone app is no longer on life support after the Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners' recently approved a service agreement between the app maker and the county.
The Vitals Aware Services app is a service designed to improve interactions between law enforcement and people living with intellectual, behavioral and developmental conditions.
"The Vitals app enables safer community interactions by allowing individuals with visible and invisible conditions and disabilities to create and share a personalized digital profile with authorized first responders via a secure, mobile app," Sheriff Scott Goddard told the board.
The county provides services to more than 430 people with disabilities and an additional 530 vulnerable people over the age of 65. Crow Wing County Community Services is supporting the implementation of Vitals.
"How this helps us is that it improves real-time communication, reducing the risk of misunderstandings and promoting greater independence," Goddard told commissioners at their Tuesday, March 26, meeting.
The Twin Cities-based Vitals developed the app-based service with the Autism Society of Minnesota, but it now works for medical or mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, depression, dementia, schizophrenia, epilepsy or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
"It's an app that users throughout Crow Wing County can load ... so they can enter their information. If they have a disability, they can list that ... so when we look at our approach on how we would communicate and talk with this person, it gives us an idea," Goddard said.
Vitals works by equipping first responders with information voluntarily provided by Vitals enrollees. An enrollee must download the app for the first responders to see their information.
A vulnerable person or their caregiver must register online, get the app and then the vulnerable person wears a beacon that can be a keychain, necklace, debit card, bracelet or smartphone.
"Each person has a beacon, and when we come within 80 feet of that person-we have the app loaded on our phone, the Vitals app-and we get an alert, so in cases of, say, a person with Alzheimer's, younger person or older person with autism," Goddard said.
The annual cost for the program is $5,731. All of the expenses will be paid by Region V+ Adult Mental Health Initiative.
"We have been a member since April of last year, and we initially put 22 of our licensed personnel on the program-there is a monthly cost. Starting this year in April-that's where the renewal is coming up now-Sourcewell will cover the funding for it," Goddard said.
The agreement between Vitals Aware Services Inc. and the sheriff's office is for "electronic introduction, notification or location services and associated products for on-the-ground interactions between law enforcement and vulnerable individuals, effective April 1.
"Great program. It is not the brainchild of the sheriff's office," Goddard said. "Kudos to community services. They came up with the program. We're just a user."
The consumer's information sent to the officers' phone, when they are within 80 feet, is only temporary. When the incident is concluded and the officer clears the area, the information will be gone.
"With our transient population that we see every Friday, Saturday, Sunday ... there are going to be users ... coming from the metro area that are up here on vacation, and we can certainly have contact with them, so it's a quick reference tool," Goddard said of the app.
Commissioner Steve Barrows made the motion to enter into the service agreement with Vitals Aware Services Inc. Commissioner Doug Houge seconded the motion, and it was approved unanimously.
In other business, the county board:
Approved the hiring of Josh Barnack, community services social worker, and Kelly Roach and Shelly Skeim, community services financial workers.
Accepted the departure of Emily Fell, community services financial worker, Bryan Pike, land services environmental services specialist, Tamra Laska, human resources liaison and project manager, and Darleen Wood, land services property assessor.
Accepted the donation from Mary Marks in the amount of $100 for the county unmanned aerial system program.
Approved the renewal consumption and display permit application of Michael Scofield, Chef Mike's Catering, Crow Wing Township.
Accepted a grant in the amount of $31,000 from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources for the county well-sealing program in sensitive groundwater aquifers program.
Accepted a grant in the amount of $51,346 from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources for the 2019 septic treatment systems and the 2019 septic treatment systems upgrade programs.
Authorized community services to host a Region Five county contract for Discovery Horse, a trauma-informed mental health organization set on a farm sanctuary, which will allow the county to monitor rates and ensure property liability coverage while not locking in any specific amount of services.
Authorized the county board chair to sign a letter of support for the grant application to the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources as part of efforts to buy 69 acres of land surrounding the historic Pequot Lakes fire tower.
Authorized entering into a contract between the county and Anderson Brothers Construction Co. of Brainerd for $1,168,427 for full-depth reclamation and bituminous surfacing on County Road 136.
Authorized entering into a contract between the county and Traffic Marking Services Inc. for $237,294 for pavement markings.
Approved entering into a grant contract with the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct the County Veterans Service Office Operational Improvement Grant Program to purchase outreach materials, sustain the transportation system for veterans, to continue education and training to existing staff, as well as new training for the incoming service officer.