The Mental Health Center of Denver has been serving the citizens of the City and County of Denver, Colorado for 30 years. With a mission to enrich lives by focusing on strengths and well-being, this not-for-profit organization offers a variety of mental health programs. Through dozens of sites, community partnerships and home-based outreach, they provided treatment, prevention and crisis services to more than 20,000 children and adults last year.
Video security is a critical element for safety at the Mental Health Center of Denver’s sites. When responsibility for the video surveillance infrastructure moved from the physical security team to the IT department, Chris Walker, Director of IT, knew he had an opportunity to re-evaluate their existing equipment and bring it into the 21st century.
One of the most challenging aspects of their legacy video security was the fact that everything was managed separately. Retrieving video data from any one site was time-consuming and costly, from a support perspective.
In the early days, one department took care of all building requirements across the organization. But without a unified approach to selecting surveillance camera equipment, it wasn’t long before they were juggling three different legacy systems across the organization.
Meanwhile, the IT department was responsible for helping people retrieve data from these disjointed systems. Specialized software had to be installed on a desktop or laptop to gain access, and people often struggled to use it.
Expensive and Difficult to Scale
With operations spread out across Denver, installing and maintaining individual surveillance systems was expensive. This was especially true for their 14 residential locations—small sites that house up to 15 individuals and staffed by a limited number of employees in a 24/7 environment.
The organization wanted to ensure greater security for staff and clients at each of these residential locations, but doing so with the old system would have meant installing a dedicated camera and DVR at each site. At $400 per camera, and an additional $7,000 for each DVR, “that was just cost prohibitive,” explains Chris, “because our desire is to continue to expand and grow.”
Unreliable Camera Functionality
For the Mental Health Center of Denver, providing a safe environment for employees and clients is crucial. Given the nature of the business, people coming to their buildings may be at-risk and their behavior may be unpredictable.
“The systems that we had were all the traditional camera DVR setups, where the DVRs seemed to be breaking down all the time,” Chris recalls. “They would be broken down for a week or a week and a half before somebody could get out there. The people at the front desk and other individuals were uncomfortable with the fact that we were doing without cameras for a week or two.”
Timely Access to Critical Data Was Difficult at Best
Surveillance footage is useful for many organizations from a historical data perspective. But for a not-for-profit healthcare organization, it’s often critical—and needed in real-time.
The Mental Health Center of Denver runs active training scenarios once or twice a year to ensure employees are prepared for potential real-life threats. As part of the exercise, participants are given small bits of information at a time and have to figure out how to proceed based on what they knew.
They quickly recognized that accessible video surveillance was absolutely critical in life-threatening situations like these, and that their current solution made it especially challenging.
Chris says, “We realized that, if we wanted to have access to the camera systems at one of the sites where this scenario was occurring, it would be very difficult to do. Not only was it time-consuming for our own employees, but also for any of the first responders who needed access to a camera in a certain area to be able to see what’s going on.”
Video Security Infrastructure Had Become Unmanageable
The legacy solution was both outdated and problematic. As Chris notes, “The tipping point was a meeting where we spent an entire hour trying to get the software working on one person’s machine. I said, ‘This is ridiculous.’”
He knew there had to be new technology on the market that would make their lives much easier—so he began his search.
“One of the things I really liked about Verkada is that they were focused solely on the cameras. I felt, with that kind of focus, there would be better R&D and improvements down the line.”
It wasn’t long before Chris saw that with a cloud-based security solution, the organization could move away from the old camera and DVR technology they’d been using for video security.
He narrowed it down to two solution providers. Each were invited in to do a demo, but Verkada quickly won him over.
“There were a couple of features that kind of threw everything in Verkada’s direction,” Chris affirms. “One of them was that Verkada was already offering a camera that exceeded the video retention time that was part of the requirement. We really had a 60-day retention, but [at that point] the Verkada camera was up to 90.” Today, Verkada also offers camera models that store up to 120 days of video.
Another feature that Chris appreciated was the heater on the outdoor cameras—something that would come in very handy during Colorado winters.
But Verkada solved many more problems for the Mental Health Center of Denver, and gave Chris the confidence to know he was making the right choice.
Centralized Management and User-Friendly Software
“With Verkada, we could just export footage and send them a link to it and they can do what they want with it at that point. It’s going to reduce the amount of time that our IT department actually has to spend on it.”
Some of their buildings are located in high-traffic areas. Law enforcement officials often request access to a particular segment of footage from external cameras that face areas outside the buildings. But, with the legacy solution, the process wasn’t easy.
“Our help desk staff was constantly going out to export camera feeds from various sites,” explains Chris. “They’d have to go over there, they have to export it, they have to give them a thumb drive or put it on a DVD.”
With Verkada, Chris and his team are able to export the data and send a link to whoever needs the information. What’s more, those viewing the camera data can do so with ease.
“Instead of having somebody sit down in front of an hour-long feed and go through the entire hour to look for something,” Chris says, “we can do searches on motion in a particular part of the frame.”
With centralized cloud-based storage and a user-friendly software interface to manage video footage, help desk staff and system administrators are free to focus on other priorities.
A Scalable Solution to Grow with the Organization
“The scalability of Verkada was very, very attractive and pretty much blew away any of the old systems.“
With Verkada’s cloud-based system, new features and functions are deployed automatically, making maintenance a breeze.
“One of the things I like is that, if there’s new technology, then we can push it out in firmware or software. It’s not a matter of replacing cameras, upgrading the DVRs or having down time and major upgrades or anything like that. So, we’re able to actually use that new technology on the fly.”
Verkada Cameras Help Put Safety First
With Verkada’s robust hardware and cloud-based storage, broken cameras and DVRs are a thing of the past. Both staff and clients can feel safe and secure knowing that their locations are being monitored in real-time.
Another requirement from the Risk Management team was that the cameras be free of exposed wires and cabling. More than just a matter of tidy storage, it was a personal safety concern, as some clients might be in crisis and prone to self-harm.
With Verkada’s simple power over Ethernet (PoE) setup, there are no electrical or coaxial wires required. To prevent detachment, the cameras are securely mounted with Torx security screws.
Phase one of the initial roll-out involved replacing 235 legacy cameras. As users are becoming acclimated to the new system, the IT department is receiving requests for additional cameras. In the near future, Chris plans on adding 30 more cameras to supplement what they currently have in place. Chris is also preparing to purchase five of Verkada’s new D80 Fisheye cameras.
One other thing that has impressed Chris is Verkada’s technical support. “Whenever I’m thinking about making a large purchase in IT, I always go with the thought that you purchase the product once and then you deal with support forever,” advises Chris. “You never really know how support’s going to be until you actually use it. And I’m happy with Verkada.”
The Mental Health Center of Denver is still early on in their Verkada deployment, but the future looks bright. As they move into the second phase of the current project, they’ll be able cover more areas. As Chris notes, Verkada fits their organizational goals of providing visual security for their different locations.
Given the various funding options available, Chris feels that growth is inevitable. “Someday my boss will tell me that we’re going to add another location.” says Chris. “When that happens, it’ll just be a matter of putting more cameras up and connecting them.” With Verkada, Chris rests assured that expanding video surveillance will always be a quick and easy process for his team—and every new Mental Health Center of Denver location will be safer for staff and clients alike.