Case Study: Arkansas EMS Dept. Enhances Pediatric Behavioral Health Services

With a new protocol and Pulsara, Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services can now transport eligible pediatric behavioral health patients directly to behavioral health facilities—resulting in a 44% decrease of pediatric behavioral health patients transported to the ED. 

Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) is a public, non-profit EMS entity serving Little Rock, Arkansas, and its surrounding counties. The organization’s service area covers approximately 1,800 square miles and nearly half a million Arkansans. MEMS transports around 77,000 patients each year. In 2020, MEMS adopted Pulsara to improve communication with area hospitals for time-sensitive emergencies such as stroke, STEMI, and trauma. 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, MEMS faced a new challenge: a growing number of pediatric behavioral health cases. Between 2022 and 2023, mental health calls accounted for 10% of MEMS’ overall call volume, with a noticeable surge in pediatric mental health cases. MEMS was transporting every behavioral health patient under 18 to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, creating a bottleneck in the emergency department as patients wait to be transferred to a behavioral health facility. Mack Hutchison, Clinical Manager for MEMS, explains: “Many of these patients do not need medical clearance and can occupy a room in the ED for up to 24 hours before a bed is found for them at a behavioral health facility.” Hutchison had an idea: what if those who didn’t need medical clearance could be routed directly to a behavioral health facility, relieving pressure on the ED and getting patients care more quickly?


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