Counselors pair up with paramedics in pilot program

By: Alexandra Koehn, Newschannel 5

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Counselors will pair up with paramedics soon to respond to mental health calls.

Amanda Bracht at Mental Health Cooperative said ambulances in Nashville go to about 128 mental health calls a week.

“Some of those calls — of the 128, I think if people knew the resources they could access, they may not be calling 911 as their first response,” Bracht said.

That’s why the Mental Health Cooperative is launching a pilot program called REACH: Responders Engaged and Committed to Help.

They’re pairing up veteran paramedics with a couple of counselors to go on behavioral health calls in an SUV to free up ambulances for other calls.

“They wanted a response to people in crisis that didn’t have to necessarily involve the police. You know, the police can go on those where it’s a heightened acuity and there’s a safety risk,” Bracht said. “This program is evolved because people said we need another option for those less acute situations that still need an emergency response, but maybe don’t need law enforcement to be the first responders.”

Officers will still go to mental health calls if there’s violence or a weapon involved.

“Sometimes having a law enforcement officer there can be triggering for some people,” Bracht said.

The goal is to improve response times and keep people out of the ER.

“Sometimes, certainly, we do need to take people to the emergency room because of a medical emergency — even a very acute psychiatric emergency. More often than not, there’s other resources we can tap into to avoid that unnecessary delay in our emergency rooms,” Bracht said.

Mental Health Cooperative has a clinic that patients can go to as well.

If the pilot program goes well, she hopes to see it expand in the future.

“The teams will be centrally located in the city, but they can go anywhere,” Bracht said.

The program launches next week.

“We’re very excited,” Bracht said. “It’s been several months of planning.”

Police have a similar pilot program called Partners in Care where counselors ride along with police officers.


Source: Newschannel 5