A new program led by the UC Davis Fire Department aims to address health and wellness issues before they become emergencies.
Health 34, named after the department’s Station 34, will provide allied health paramedics (with multidisciplinary training) and students working for the fire department as emergency medical technicians, along with students training in clinical rotations at the School of Nursing and the Betty Irene School Moore in Medicine, which can connect the campus community with wellness resources, counseling and more. They will be supervised by a health nurse navigator and medical director, and may also treat minor injuries and make follow-up home visits with students who have been treated and released from the Student Health and Wellness Center.
“Health 34 is about fundamentally rethinking how we as an institution and we as the UC Davis Fire Department take care of our community and take care of people in the space that exists before and after a 911 call,” said Fire Chief Nate Trauernicht.
The program was in the process of hiring three paramedics and a nurse at the time this article was published, with the goal of providing services on campus beginning in the fall or winter quarter. The campus community will be able to request help from Health 34 by calling a dedicated phone number or by starting a conversation at one of the many planned events, Trauernicht said.
For example, he said a student who struggles with anxiety but isn’t sure how to get help or if they can afford it can use the service. Health 34 members will spend time explaining the UC student health insurance plan and how that student can make an appointment with Student Health and Counseling Services. While state law dictates who can answer 911 calls and sometimes requires a trip to the hospital, the idea is that Health 34 staff can help in non-emergency situations, such as spending time with and providing support to someone , which has a panic attack, navigating to existing resources and helping to remove barriers to access.
Corey Wu, associate vice chancellor for health, wellness and resources for the student affairs division, said that while the university works to hire more counselors, the increased referrals from Health 34 could actually free up some of their time.
“We can prevent things before it becomes a situation where it needs more care,” he said.
Health 34 employees will be dressed in medical scrubs. Another goal of the program is to bring calm and support to situations and avoid the stigma that can come from a greater response from uniformed fire, ambulance and police officers.
“It’s a more compassionate approach to a crisis situation that’s not an emergency,” Wu said. “With Health 34, the goal is to reduce the number of involuntary hospitalizations or incarcerations that are not necessary [that result from mental health crises].”
Health 34 will also look to care for people who have recently been released from treatment, such as someone who receives stitches after an injury and has been advised to go home and take care of their wound themselves. The Health 34 team could visit that person and make sure they are being treated and taking their medication properly. For example, if they’re not taking pain medication with food because their refrigerator is empty, Health 34 staff could offer them a ride to the ASUCD Pantry, the campus food bank.
“These issues that we’re looking to address are intertwined — they’re interconnected,” Trauernicht said. “People’s health is directly related to their housing security, their food security, their health literacy and their knowledge of support and available resources.”