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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Introducing Guardly - A Look At the Future of Public Services?

Guardly is a brilliant, innovative application of social media and new technology to a societal need.  Not only does it allow for services to get to where they're required and fast - it brings the whole conversation to the intended user in a way that is accessible and intuitive for them.  This is the next iteration of the whole "get your health card like a pizza" theme redesigning social services to mesh with how people behave rather than trying to train them to behave in a way that works for services.

Now, how can this concept be expanded to broader applications, boosting the economy by creating new markets and improving service delivery, benefiting both users and providers?  If you read my blog, you know that I have proposed the creation of a map-based, user-friendly online service aggregate, something the US is now pursuing with their digital government strategy.  When Canada gets around to building its own model, we'll need an App that connects those services with users in their daily lives, via mobile device.  Guardly (or tools like it) can be the connective tissue between users and online service delivery.

That's big-picture; on a more immediate level, there's a ready-made opportunity that would allow Guardly to test out the broader application of their product in a related field (security and safety), helping to address a major social issue at the same time.  That field is the interaction between our police, mental health service providers and persons suffering from mental illness themselves.

At Gerard Kennedy's recent Mental Health Matinee, I had the opportunity to view The Interventionists, a documentary that follows Toronto's Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT) as they dealt with calls involving Emotionally Disturbed People (EDPs).  It was pretty shocking stuff, though none of it unexpected.  We know what happens on our streets, even if we choose to ignore it.  After the screening, I had a chance to speak with one of the MCIT Officers, Mike Zawerbry, about the work (which he was very passionate about) and ask if he felt there were other tools he could use to enhance his services. 

Officer Zawerbry said that having one online portal that aggregates what mental health services are available in town by type and location would be incredibly useful.  If that portal could include tips on recognizing mental illness symptoms and suggested responses for de-escalation responses, that would also be helpful.  For it to be of real-time use, this portal would have to be accessible by mobile phone and intuitive to use.  You can't be fumbling over functions when there's someone trying to harm themselves or someone else in front of you.

Overdose at Occupy TorontoThe MCIT program is a partnership between the Toronto Police and St. Joseph's Health Centre.  Completely separate, the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario's Justice Mental Health Program (JMHP) provides support and training for people on both sides of the law (including families) related to mental health.  Same sort of deal; if the services JMHP and some self-guidance tools were available, would such a service help de-escalate problems or provide more rapid support access?  If individuals with diagnoses of mental illness had their own profile information on their personal devices, could they use that as a self-help and help-seeking tool when they have moments of distress?

An App like Guardly could be tweaked to help fill this gap.  Would such a service help keep people out of hospitals, the justice system and jail cells, reducing service cost?  If so, would that be worth funding?  On the other side of the equation, how much could be saved in terms of unnecessary service use/preserving human dignity/maintaining safety and security?

Ontario is looking for innovative ways to stimulate the economy; it's looking to improve service delivery and provide additional support for their front-line workers - they're also looking to improve quality of life outcomes in the province. 

Guardly might just have an App for that.

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