Fishers first responders continue care after responding to mental crisis

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FISHERS, Ind. – Fishers first responders answered hundreds of calls in 2019 from people in need of mental health help.

“Of the almost 650 runs that we did last year, over half of those were mental health calls,” Lt. Joe Harding said. “That includes mental health crisis, that includes overdose.”

During a 2012 conference, several leaders within the Fishers Fire Department and Emergency Services decided to put together a mental health care plan for their city.

“One thing we noticed over time is we needed help in a crisis point when people are at their most vulnerable and having the biggest problem with mental health crisis,” Harding said.

Through the WeCare program, the emergency services workers were helping with fall prevention, hypertension and diabetes, but knew additional help for others was needed.

“We knew those were all issues in the City of Fishers,” Harding said. “We also knew the top things that were sending people to the hospital was mental health – anxiety, depression, serious mental health issues.”

So, after what Harding said was hundreds of hours of research, a team made up of Harding, Lt. Josh Mehling and Chief Steven Davison came up with a mental health care plan for the city which provides care during crisis and beyond.

“When somebody’s having their worst day, so that we can provide assistance,” Harding said. “But then that also provides us a basis of understanding and context so that we can follow up with them later to see how their course of treatment is going.”

Mehling said mental health care is something Mayor Scott Fadness and other city leaders take seriously, and they do not shy away from these problems that impact all areas of the country.

“It’s not a dirty little secret in Fishers as some people have tried to keep it over the years,” Mehling said.

Mehling said Fadness and Davison have traveled to other communities to talk about the emphasis Fishers Fire and EMS put on mental health care. The department has three duty officers who staff the agency around the clock, plus another team trained to help if one of them are on vacation.

“Oftentimes we find that other situations stem from the mental health issues, for example, drug use, alcohol use,” Mehling said about working to understand what brings someone to crisis.

Mehling and Harding said the goal is to respond to a call for help objectively and with as much empathy as possible.

“Somebody that’s in that vulnerable moment, in that crisis moment, can be harmed by the wrong kind of care and that’s the last thing we want to do for them,” Harding said.

In looking toward the future, Harding said they are constantly looking for ways to make a bigger impact for the people they serve.

“We’re looking for different partners to work with.,” Harding said. “We’re working on Telehealth so that we can access a licensed professional from the home if that’s an appropriate way to do things.”

Harding and Mehling said the mental health program is built so it can successfully scale to any department regardless of size.

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