The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office introduced a digital application last month to help deputies, other first responders or anyone else who needs it manage post-traumatic stress.
The app, called Pasco Sheriff’s Office PTS, is available for free on Android phones, and the department is working to create a version for Apple.
App users can take an assessment of their post-traumatic stress levels, answering questions about how much they are affected by PTS symptoms such as paranoia, memory issues and impulsive behavior. The app also offers educational information related to PTS, and services such as a family support network and counseling.
Public information officer Kevin Doll said many of the resources were selected as a result of the Sheriff’s Office’s long-standing relationship with Baycare Health.
“The more venues that are available for a person to learn about symptoms of PTS, the more likely it is that they or a loved one or friend will recognize the symptoms,” Baheerah Muwwakkill, director of information technology for the Sheriff’s Office, told the Tampa Bay Times. “This will lead to earlier intervention and hopefully a quicker, positive outcome, in overcoming the PTS.”
Between 7 and 19 percent of police officers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Doll said the Sheriff’s Office had no statistics on the rate of PTS or PTSD for its officers.
Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Matthew Rosenbloom, who served as a law enforcement officer for 12 years and worked in emergency medical services for four years, told the Times he has experienced PTS. Like other first responders, for example, he has seen young children killed, which has caused him to restrict the activities his children participate in, he said. The app helped him understand how PTS may affect his children and the children of others.
Anyone can experience PTS, Rosenbloom said.
The app created by the Sheriff’s Office is part of a pilot program in which the state government gave the Sheriff’s Office $100,000 for mental health initiatives, Doll said. The department spent $19,584 on the app’s development and is using the rest of the money on PTSD awareness within the department and mental health treatment, counseling and a family support network for deputies.
The Sheriff’s Office took nine weeks to design the app and 12 weeks to gather information for it. It had more than 100 installations as of Monday afternoon, according to the Google Play store. It was not known whether the app was installed mostly by first responders or other people.
Information entered into the app is confidential, so users can seek help without facing any mental health stigma. The Sheriff’s Office does not collect data entered by app users and does not currently have a plan to evaluate its effectiveness.
Tampa Bay Times