CALIFORNIA: Community Paramedics Work to Link Patients with Mental Health Care

November 17, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News
Speaker:  California

Kaiser Health News

A pilot program in Modesto, California aims to supplement mental health care services with community paramedics who are trained to identify and assist individuals experiencing psychiatric distress. Paramedics are called upon to intervene in cases of potential mental health crises and divert patients from the emergency department to more appropriate care, such as inpatient or outpatient psychiatric facilities. Increasingly, paramedics are also being asked to perform follow-up. “Emergency departments are bursting at the seams,” said Mountain Valley EMS Agency Medical Director Kevin Mackey, who started the program. “This is at least a partial answer to giving people care in the right place at the right time.” Similar initiatives are underway in a handful of other states, including North Carolina, Minnesota, Texas, Colorado, and Georgia. Experts have said that while these efforts partially bridge gaps in the mental health care system, there are remaining challenges, such as a lack of access to specialized psychiatric treatment.

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