SUVs to help Mesa Fire with mental health calls

Posted at 3:21 PM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 17:21:25-05

A new type of SUV will help Mesa firefighters and paramedics with mental-health related calls.

"It's giving us the opportunity to be able to put the right people on the call," said Mesa Fire Captain Brent Burgett.

The right people -- all at the right time.

One in 10 phone calls Mesa fire dispatchers received are mental health calls.

"The goal is to get [patients] to a facility where they'll be able manage their needs quicker than just sending them to the hospital for a behavioral health emergency,” he said.

The community care vehicles as they’re called will still have properly trained medical people inside—people like Dennette Janus, a professional and licensed counselor—while avoiding the typical ambulance look.

"[Patients] feel like they're being stigmatized by being put in an ambulance, sent to an ER and people don't know what to do with them on scene," said Janus.

Each SUV has radios, computers with patient information and life-saving equipment and technology.

Mesa Fire hopes this is the start of a trend to help people get the support and resources they need right on scene. All without any hassle, stress or trip to the hospital.

Customer care teams are available during the week during peak hours. The vehicles were funded with a grant.