Shelby County, Memphis Fire Dept. take new approach to address mental health needs

Updated: Apr. 28, 2021 at 4:02 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County is taking a new approach to address the needs of people during a mental health crisis.

“We just need to get the word out that people need treatment if they’re suffering from a mental health crisis, not incarceration as well,” said Laurie Powell, CEO of Alliance Health Services.

A resolution passed by the Shelby County Commission is a step in making sure citizens receive proper treatment during a mental health crisis.

Powell says, many times, patients are sent to hospitals. But the COVID-19 pandemic has caused changes within hospitals.

”There’s no available bed and hospital, perhaps. They might not have a psychiatric unit, and they’re backed up handling the medical individuals that might need a higher level of care there in their hospital,” said Powell.

AHS now has a contract with the county that allows the Memphis Fire Department to transport patients to AHS locations.

Powell says the process will start how it typically does.

“They will get the call from 911 triage, what’s needed for that individual and assess, ‘Hey this is a mental health emergency? Let’s take them directly to Alliance healthcare crisis continuum,’” said Powell.

AHS will also be training MFD leadership and EMTs on how to identify mental health care emergencies in individuals who may need a high level of care.

”It really is a full continuum of care for those 18 and older,” added Powell.

She says their goal is to continue to stand by their mission statement, “To promote wellness in our community.”

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