A team that responds to emergency calls involving mental health crisis situations in Sedgwick County now has the support to continue beyond a trial run.
The Integrated Care Team, known as ICT-1, began last summer as a way to provide care and services for those in crisis. It’s a collaborative effort between several Sedgwick County and the City of Wichita departments. The team consists of a law enforcement officer, a paramedic and a social worker who respond together to 911 calls that have a mental health component. They travel together in a van provided by the Wichita Fire Department.
“What we’re trying to do is take some of the burden of the most complex, confounding and confusing calls that require the most specialized work off of the police department, off the paramedics and off the firefighters that are out there responding to [the calls] anyway," said ICT-1 Program Manager Malachi Winters.
He says the team is able to assess and treat a majority of people on site instead of automatically taking them to a hospital emergency department, crisis facility or jail.
The ICT-1 team formed last year on a trial basis to address increasing mental health needs in the community. Each participating public agency donated personnel time, equipment and resources to support the program.
Sedgwick County formalized its support of the program by providing funding for two ICT-1 positions — a paramedic and a clinical social worker — in the 2021 budget.
"Currently until now, we have been backfilling those positions from our payroll and pulling people from other job duties in order to fulfill those positions," Winters said. "Now that we have those funded, we’ll have a dedicated funding resource to run ICT-1 continuously."
The ICT-1 team is on duty Tuesday through Friday from noon to 10 p.m. Winters says the team had been working from 2 p.m. to midnight. The schedule was adjusted last spring due to a shift in 911 call volume related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Winters says the pandemic and economic trouble in the community created a greater need for the service this year.
"Everybody’s anxiety has increased, and along with that, the number of people who are teetering on the edge between being OK and not being OK has increased as well," Winters said.
The pandemic also put plans to expand the ICT-1 program on hold.
Winters says demand for this mental health service remains, but the current budget situation rules out adding more teams.
"We could probably run three teams and still be busy with the amount of mental health calls that we’re having," he said.
The ICT-1 team has responded to hundreds of calls since July 2019 and spends an average of three hours on each patient.