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Ariz. EMS dept. to use SUVs on mental health calls

The department hopes the new vehicles will decrease the stigma of calling for an ambulance

MESA, Ariz. — An Arizona Fire and EMS department is hoping a new type of SUV will improve its ability to respond to mental health calls.

ABC15.com reported the SUVs, which will be called community care vehicles, will have properly trained medical staff inside but will look less like typical ambulances.

"[Patients] feel like they're being stigmatized by being put in an ambulance, sent to an ER and people don't know what to do with them on scene," said Denette Janus, a professional and licensed counselor who will ride in one of the SUVs.

One in 10 phone calls the Mesa Fire Department receives are mental health related.

"It's giving us the opportunity to be able to put the right people on the call," said Mesa Fire Captain Brent Burgett. "The goal is to get [patients] to a facility where they'll be able manage their needs quicker than just sending them to the hospital for a behavioral health emergency.”

Each community care vehicle will have radios and computers with patient information as well as typical medical equipment.

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