Clark County starts emergency mental, behavioral health response team
RIDGEFIELD Wash. (KPTV) - Washington state will have a new co-responder program to help address the behavioral health and mental health crisis in Clark County.
The program will have a two-person team, an experienced paramedic and a behavioral health professional.
SeaMar Behavioral Health Center will provide the behavioral health specialist, and a paramedic from Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue. Carelon Behavioral Health will provide the funding at nearly $1 million. The funds will go toward vehicles, equipment and staff.
The team will work out of a fire station and respond to calls through the 911 system, attending a wide range of emergencies, from someone who may be feeling suicidal to someone with psychotic symptoms.
Clark-Cowlitz Fire Chief Mike Jackson says at the moment, they average up to three mental health-related calls a day during a 10-hour shift. He also says before this program, their only option was to send people to the hospital but now they can provide the appropriate care.
“We’re going to create that safety. We’re going to assess for evidence in that situation and help them identify what their problem is and if there’s a way to problem solve that,” says Laura Nichols, the Program Manager at SeMar Behavioral Health.
Based on SeMar’s Moble Crisis Program, they’ve already seen a huge success and are hopeful this program will also thrive.
“I can say that approximately 90% of the time when we go out on calls, we can divert from hospitalization or incarceration,” says Nichols.
Chief Jackson says having the Co-Responder team will help keep fire units in service.
“Even a single call takes a unit out of place and then, if another call comes in in that area, we’re waiting on another resource to respond from further away,” says Jackson. “We’re able to dedicate this team to that scene, help those folks navigate that while we return those other units back to service so they’re available so they’re available for the next emergency which improves our overall response time.”
The program is currently staffed at 40 hours and they hope to reach 80 hours by June.
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