Transport initiative helps mental health patients in Hamilton County

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — A new transport initiative in Hamilton County will change the way mental health patients are treated when they are in crisis.

A new kind of ambulance is coming to Hamilton County. It’s called AmeriMed and will transport mental health patients who are in crisis.

“I think it is a lot more appropriate to ride in an ambulance than it is in a police car if you are having a mental health or medical emergency. I think stigma is a problem and this helps reduce that stigma,” said Lt. Eliott Mahaffey, with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.

“In no other medical scenario would we entertain have a sheriff’s officer respond to a crisis put cuffs on the patient and put the patient in the back of a cop car to take them to an emergency room, to a hospital or any other type setting,” said Eve Nite, with Erlanger Behavioral Health Hospital.

Operations managers with AmeriMed EMS says in the past there wasn’t enough bandwidth to respond to these patients.

“So no one has tapped into dealing with behavioral health or paying enough attention to behavioral health emergencies and transporting them to appropriate facilities and as a result the sheriff’s have had to deal with it,” said Joe Chiarella, with AmeriMed Emergency Medical Services.

Erlanger Behavioral Health Hospital, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and AmeriMed EMS worked together to make a change. On Monday afternoon they unveiled the initiative.

“With AmeriMed they are specially trained to handle behavioral health transports to be able to de-escalate and use some safety precautions to restrain if necessary and then that ambulance will be transporting that patient for medical care in a dignified medical setting,” Nite said.

This will be the second county in state to have this program. It is expected to go into effect on Friday.

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