A smartphone app is helping law enforcement respond better to calls involving some of their most vulnerable residents, including those with dementia, autism, PTSD and mental illness.

Brown County deputies and New Ulm police are among dozens of agencies around the state to use the app, which relays information provided by a caregiver. In some cases, it could help de-escalate encounters. “Ultimately it’s about getting the person to the services they need,” said Brown County Sheriff Jason Seidl.

The Vitals Aware Services uses Bluetooth technology to connect a first responder to information, including a photo, entered to a secure, online portal and mobile app. The vulnerable person would wear a beacon device that can take the form of a keychain, necklace, debit card or bracelet. An Android phone also can serve as a beacon. An officer or deputy equipped with the smartphone app immediately receives the necessary information when they’re within 80 feet of the beacon.

The information may warn a first responder of potential triggers that could escalate a situation or suggest ways to calm the person, Seidl said.

Mary Lynn Smith


Commissioners head to Washington, D.C.

Three county commissioners from diverse regions of Minnesota traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to join Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson for a White House roundtable on affordable housing.

Jack Swanson, a Roseau County commissioner, Scott Schulte of Anoka County and Raeanne Danielowski of Sherburne County were among 30 local government officials nationwide who participated.

Swanson said all delivered the same message: “That the need for affordable housing outpaces the stock by a long way.” He said the focus was on how government can ease regulations on construction firms to facilitate building more affordable housing.

Reid Forgrave


Wincraft chosen as best NBA licensee

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has honored Winona-based Wincraft as the top licensee of non-apparel branded items. Licensed NBA products made by Wincraft include flags, towels, decals, can coolers and pennants. Wincraft produces branded items for every major North American sports league as well as the NCAA.

The privately owned company was founded in Winona 59 years ago and employs nearly 700 people.

john Reinan