New emergency response team starting pilot program in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

The integrated care team in Wichita took their first action Friday in Wichita before their pilot program begins July 30.

The team is made up of people from different agencies. A Wichita police officer, or sheriff's deputy, a paramedic comprise the team that responds to mental health emergencies.

"One of the things that we're trying to accomplish with this team is to already have those pieces that would be needed already put together as part of the team," said Malachi Winters, the program manager for the office of the medical director.

Malachi Winters said it gives the team diversity for whatever emergency they respond to dealing with mental health. They use databases to access 911 calls and other emergencies to see what they will need to respond to. However, Winters said they won't respond to everything.

"The volume is too high for that," he said.

Once they find one they feel they need to respond to, they go to it in their red ICT-1 labeled car.

"We want to be slower and more thoughtful and deliberate in our responses," Winters said.

KAKE News had the opportunity to ride along with the team as they drove to calls. During the drive Winters said going out to calls like this is what will help other agencies.

"Be able to keep those resources available for higher emergency calls," he said.

Other states like Colorado and Oklahoma have started these response teams. Winters said they did some research and found that it worked for them.

"The biggest impact that they saw in their communities was on law enforcement," he said. "Colorado Springs saw a reduction of at least 2,000 law enforcement calls."

Friday they responded to two calls during the ride along, one of which the patient did not want to receive treatment. The second call they responded to took, 30 to 45 minutes. KAKE News was not told what the call was about, but after they worked on the patients, one response member on the team briefly described the process.

"We were just tasked just trying to process how we can help them and what needs they may have," said Andrea Lantz, a licensed master social worker on the team.

After going out on one of their first calls Friday, she said this is something Wichita needs.

"I think it's very much needed," she said. "It's very nice to see a proactive approach and also breaking down the silos."

According to Winters, these types of calls that will come in the future are what makes this team necessary.

"Ultimately this is about getting the right resources to the right patients at the right time," Winters said.

In their car is different equipment they would need if a medical emergency were the case, as well as for mental health emergencies. The 90-day pilot program is set to begin July 30 and end October 31. At that point public officials will decide if they want to keep it or not.

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