Across the country, “community paramedics” are helping to improve mental health care while also easing the burden on ERs, making sure patients get the right care at the right time, reports Kaiser Health News.
These specially trained responders are dispatched when a 911 call involves someone with a potential mental health crisis. They can then perform an assessment, ensuring that the person gets access to necessary care, rather than simply being sent to an already overburdened ER.
After a physical assessment, paramedics … talk to the patient — to figure out what, precisely, the issue is, asking also about issues like a patient’s mental health history, drug use and insurance status. They use that information, along with details about resources available, to figure out the next steps for the patient — maybe it is a hospital or a psych facility, or maybe it is outpatient care.
Often, the work is ongoing. Community paramedics will check in with patients from time to time, applying coordinated care principles to improve mental health care. There are currently programs in place in California, North Carolina, Minnesota, Texas, Colorado, and Georgia, with more states interested.