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A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Emergency Services

By Robert Marshall Wells

With the population aging, first responders across the country are exposed to demanding and tense situations on a regular basis.

For many communities, including here in Pierce County, Washington, matters are further complicated by a steadily increasing need for mental and behavioral health services, which present challenges far different more conventional emergencies.

Traci Krieg, Executive Director of Adult Behavioral Health at Tacoma-based Comprehensive Life Resources (CLR), recalls the story of a 72-year-old Pierce County woman who made 113 separate trips to the emergency room in one year.

The majority of the people we see are low-income. They are living in substandard housing. They haven’t had good care. – Traci Krieg, Counselor for Comprehensive Life Resources

As a result, such circumstances often mean that at any given time in Pierce County, 20 percent of people can utilize up to 80 percent of emergency services, an untenable cost in both human and financial terms.

In 2017, with funding from Elevate Health and other community partners, this realization led to creation of a new program called the Mobile Community Intervention Response Team (or, MCIRT for short), designed to improve the lives of those affected by mental illness, substance abuse, and/or unmet medical needs.

Specifically, multi-disciplinary teams comprised of nurses, nurse practitioners, EMTs and other first responders, travel to all parts of Pierce County to provide therapeutic alternatives aimed at reducing contact with first responders.

MCIRT team members work to reduce the numbers of people with behavioral health (mental and substance use disorders) that use costly interventions such as jail, emergency rooms, and hospitals.

Doing so reduces the number of 911 calls from individuals whose medical needs may not be addressed because of poor self-care, lack of community support, or connection to resources.

“On paper, there’s tons of resources out there,” says Jennifer Sorensen, a CLR Program Manager who also participates in the podcast. “But in the population we work with, they may not have access to those resources.”

Listen to the full conversation on Elevate Health Podcast to learn about MCIRT's multidisciplinary approach to reducing costly interventions and connecting people to care and resources.

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