New program helping send mental health patients to Rosecrance instead of ER

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When someone experiencing a behavioral or mental health crisis calls 911, state law requires ambulances to take them to the emergency room. Under a new pilot program, the Rockford Fire Department hopes to transport patients with different needs to Rosecrance instead.

“The patients that do have medical issues are seen in the emergency departments, but it’s the patients with purely psychiatric and behavioral health complaints that are going to the Rosecrance Treatment Center,” Brian Park, EMS Coordinator for the Rockford Fire, said.

Patients must be non-violent, willing and have medical clearance. Rockford Fire says many times, the ER hasn’t been the best place for some cases.

“Taking advantage of improved access for an individual to receive the right care, at the right time, at the right place,” Philip Eaton, President and CEO for Resecrance, said.

The Rosecrance Mulberry Center is made up of a 16 bed crisis residential and triage programs.
With the ok from the Illinois Department of Public Health, first responders will be able to offer this option.

“There are certain things that we have to do just by law,” Park said. “That’s fine because they’re put in place to protect patients, but I think we’ve put a lot of safeguard in place to protect patients with this program as well.”

“There will be a number of trainings to work with first responders to help them identify the appropriate individuals that should be transported,” Eaton said.

Supporters say although the hospital is a great resource in emergencies, the program’s goal is to help people avoid unnecessary hospitalization or incarceration by seeing mental health experts directly.

“We’re going to constantly evaluate this, we’re going to constantly tweak it,” Park said. “Our number one goal is patient safety; our number two goal is patient satisfaction.”

Rockford Fire is only the second department in the entire state to pilot the alternative transport procedure. Monday night, the Finance and Personnel Committee approved the agreement with Rosecrance. It will go to Full Council next Monday.

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