Unserved mentally ill people in Dallas are the focus of a new Dallas Fire Rescue program also intended to help reduce 911 calls and save ambulances for the most urgent health problems.
The “Right Care” program will be an extension of the Community Paramedic program that put paramedics in small SUV’s instead of ambulances in 2013 and sent them on house calls to frequent ambulance users.
Dallas Fire Rescue figures from 2016 show Community Paramedics posted an 82% reduction in 911 calls from the patients they visited at home.
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But Community Paramedics are not equipped for behavioral health problems.
In Dallas, many people suffering mental health problems wind up homeless or in jail.
In the past year, Dallas Fire Rescue responded to 15,593 calls that turned out to be behavioral health issues.
A Dallas Fire Rescue “Right Care” briefing for the Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee this week said 6,000 of those cases were so called “super users” who repeatedly called 911. Only 1 in 7 had received prior mental health care.
“We’ve got to do something to better serve people in our community who really appear to be suffering from a variety of mental health problems,” City Councilman Philip Kingston said.
Dallas Fire Rescue Medical Director, Doctor Marshal Isaacs told the Committee the “Right Care” program will provide a response team of a paramedic, a police officer and a mental health professional to get patients connected with proper care.
“Dispatch this team and ultimately enter them into getting additional resources to manage them and break the cycle,” Isaacs said. “If we put this team together and dispatch them, then we no longer need a significant DPD response. We can save our overburdened rescues, ambulances.”
A Caruth Foundation grant of $2.2 million will cover 3 years of vehicles, equipment and manpower for Right Care. Existing Community Paramedic record keeping will help support new patients.
“This is so creative and innovative and it’s so needed. We have this cycle of people just cycling in and out of the jail and in the hospitals,” said Dallas City Council Member Sandy Greyson. “And thank you to everyone involved for being forward thinking.”
The Public Safety Committee endorsed the idea this week. The full Dallas City Council is scheduled to vote April 26th on accepting the grant to launch the program.