Essex-Windsor EMS Creates New Mental Health Addictions Response Team

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There's funding in the 2021 County of Essex budget for Essex-Windsor EMS to create a new mental health and addictions response team or MHART.

The team expects to addressing substance abuse issues and reduce demand on 9-1-1; directing those in mental crisis to programs and services rather than emergency rooms.

Chief of Essex-Windsor EMS Bruce Krauterr says EMS has received funding for a couple of paramedics for MHART for a nine-month period that will be joined by specialized teams from area hospitals.

"We're in conversation with them now and over the next three months we should be able to get it somewhat cemented so we can have one of their staff, one of our paramedics so that in real time we can respond to those mental health calls," he says.

The pilot will see two different full-time paramedics staffed on 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, to respond to mental health calls and direct patients to the services they need.

"Once the MHART Unit gets on scene and understands what's going on they can release the ambulance and deal with the person in crisis ... get them to a hospital or an alternate destination and connected to the right service," he added.

Krauter says police do there best to deal with a mental health or addiction issue, but in the end EMS takes over or police are forced to bring the person to hospital.

He says that creates bottlenecks of admissions that MHART could divert from emergency rooms so both EMS and police can help more people.

"We use a lot of offload time for mental health and respectfully it's understandable, because the population is large, so getting people the right care at the right time on health perspective rather than criminal justice," he says.

Essex County Council approved the pilot program during budget deliberations Wednesday that will see the new mental health and addictions response team operational by April 2021.