Tulsa Fire Department Launches New Mental Health Program

The Tulsa Fire Department is starting a new program to help people who might be going through a mental health crisis.

Monday, April 3rd 2023, 4:28 pm



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The Tulsa Fire Department is starting a new program to help people who might be going through a mental health crisis.

The new Alternative Response Team will have one paramedic and one therapist to help with situations where someone might be suicidal, overdosing, or acting out.

This is in expansion to the department's Community Response Team that responds to calls where the person might be going through a mental health emergency.

Therapists say this has been life changing for families.

"Think about if you had a loved one, and instead of them having to go to an emergency room, or being transported by an ambulance and incurring that bill, if you're able to stabilize them in their home," said Amanda Bradley with Family & Children’s Services.

This team can help get things under control and potentially stop someone from having to go to jail.

"If they can de-escalate the situation and prevent a jail incarceration, because sometimes these turn violent,” said Michael Baker, the Fire Chief for the City of Tulsa.” And that's an unfortunate consequence but if we can prevent that, we can prevent the emergency room as being the primary source of care for some of these folks."

Baker says that while the therapist can help with the mental health side, the paramedic can make sure the person is physically okay.

"We also have recognized that a lot of our mental illness is also a manifestation of health problems,” said Baker. “So that's where the paramedic comes in. So determining if someone is potentially having a stroke, or having low blood sugar or something like that."

The therapists say they will continue to help make sure the person has the mental health services they need even after the initial call.

"The mental health system can be very complex and hard to navigate if you don't understand it,” said Bradley. “Especially when you're just being stabilized from a crisis situation. So having someone there to really walk through all of those difficult processes and steps with someone is very important.”

The first shift started Monday and the team will answer calls from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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