Baraga County sheriff gets telehealth for mental health crises

L’ANSE–Baraga County Memorial Hospital and the Baraga County Sheriff’s Department have launched a new co-responder model called Virtual Crisis Care, a telemedicine program delivered by Avel eCare, a Sioux Falls, S.D.-based telemedicine provider.

The program has been supported by the Copper Shores Community Health Foundation and the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

The telemedicine program will support law enforcement officers with on-demand access to behavioral health professionals who can assess individuals having a mental health crisis and make informed recommendations for managing the situation.

“Programs such as these, which provide citizen-focused, upstream behavioral health interventions, help reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and strengthen the fabric of community mental health,” said Rob Stowe, CEO of Baraga County Memorial Hospital. “Avel eCare is a true partner in care for our hospital, and the impact this program will have both on our team and the entire community will be significant. This effort wouldn’t be possible without the leadership of Sheriff Joe Brogan pulling our local law enforcement agencies together and of course the funding support of Copper Shores and the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.”

Added Kevin Store, president and CEO of the Copper Shores Community Health Foundation: “We’re proud to sponsor this program that will reduce the potential for harm, minimize arrests, and improve outcomes for individuals with behavioral health needs, leading to a safer, healthier community. I am grateful for the leadership and focus on community health that Rob (Stowe) has demonstrated for the people of that community.”

By incorporating the expertise of behavioral health professionals into their operations, Baraga County law enforcement agencies are setting a precedent for other communities across the nation to follow. Besides the sheriff’s department, agencies planning to participate in the program are the Keweenaw Bay Tribal Police Department, the Village of L’Anse Police Department, the Village of Baraga Police Department, and Michigan State Police Calumet Post.

“The Baraga County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with local police departments, recognizes the increase of mental health-related incidents and acknowledges the critical importance of providing appropriate support to individuals experiencing behavioral health crises,” said Joe Brogan, Baraga County Sheriff. “The implementation of Avel eCare will equip our deputies and officers with a powerful tool to help de-escalate tense situations and ensure those in crisis have the best care and support possible.”

Avel eCare already provides Virtual Crisis Care services to law enforcement agencies in 40 counties across South Dakota and parts of Nevada. Recently published research validated the program’s positive impact. A study published in JMIR Mental Health stated that eight out of ten law enforcement encounters utilizing Avel’s virtual co-responder model ended with citizens remaining in place, improving outcomes for the individual in crisis and preserving considerable local resources.

“Our mental health professionals are proud to support the Baraga County area with on-demand support, including de-escalation techniques, risk assessments, and guidance on the best course of action to ensure the safety and well-being the individual in crisis,” said Brian Erickson, Avel’s vice president of behavioral health services. “We applaud Copper Shores Community Health Foundation, Baraga County Memorial Hospital, and all participating law enforcement agencies for supporting this effort and working together to improve access to behavioral health services in their community.”

Baraga County Memorial Hospital is a 15-bed critical access hospital with more than 200 employees. Founded in 1952, it includes a family medicine clinic, walk-in convenient care clinic, specialty clinics, surgical services, 24/7 emergency services, imaging, rehabilitation, laboratory, Senior Life Solutions, medical equipment, and social services. For more information, visit

Avel eCare offers the largest and most comprehensive virtual health network in the world, partnering with more than 800 healthcare systems, hospitals, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, schools, and law enforcement agencies across the country. For more information, visit

More about the Baraga County Sheriff’s Department at

More about the Copper Shores Foundation at

More about the Michigan Health Endowment Fund at

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