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 undergraduate students working for the fire department as emergency medical technicians, along with students training in clinical rotations at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing and School of Medicine, who can connect the campus community with wellness resources, counseling and more. They will be overseen by an allied health nurse navigator and medical director, and can also treat minor injuries and make in-home follow-up visits with students who have been treated and released by the Student Health and Wellness Center.
“Health 34 is about fundamentally reimagining how we as an institution, and we as UC Davis Fire Department, care for 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 the nurse at the time this article went to press, with the goal of providing service on campus starting in fall or winter quarter. The campus community will be able to request help from Health 34 by calling a dedicated phone number or by striking up a conversation at one of many planned outreach events, Trauernicht said.
For example, he said a student struggling with anxiety but not sure how to get help or whether they can afford it can use the service. Members of Health 34 would take time to explain the UC Student Health Insurance Plan and how that student could make an appointment with Student Health and Counseling Services. While state law dictates who can respond to 911 calls and sometimes requires a trip to the hospital, the idea is that Health 34 staffers could help with nonemergency situations such as spending time with and providing support to someone who is having a panic attack, navigating them to existing resources, and helping to remove barriers to access.
Cory Vu, associate vice chancellor for health, wellness, and divisional resources with Student Affairs, said that while the university is working to hire more counselors, increased referrals from Health 34 could actually free up some of their time.
“We can head things off before it becomes a situation where it needs more care,” he said.
Health 34 staffers will be dressed in medical scrubs. Another goal of the program is to bring calm and support to situations and avoid the stigma that could come from a larger response from uniformed fire, ambulance and police personnel.
“It’s a more compassionate approach to a crisis situation that’s nonemergency,” Vu said. “With Health 34 the goal is to decrease the number of involuntary hospitalizations or incarcerations that are not necessary [that result from mental health crises].”
Health 34 will also seek to care for people who have been recently released from treatment, like someone who gets stitches after an injury and is advised to go home and take care of their wound on their own. Health 34’s team could visit that person and ensure they’re healing and taking medication correctly. If, for example, they aren’t taking pain medication with food because their fridge is bare, Health 34 staffers could offer them a ride to the ASUCD Pantry, the on-campus food bank.
“These issues we’re looking to address are interwoven — they’re interconnected,” Trauernicht said. “People’s health is tied directly to their housing security, their food security, their health knowledge, and their knowledge of support and available resources.”