AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin-Travis County EMS has added a new tool for its mental health crisis response team.

It’s an antipsychotic medicine, called olanzapine, and it can help with lower-level symptoms of several mental health conditions including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to the medication’s website.

ATCEMS has it on hand because of Capt. Kim Griffith.

“This came from a call where I really could have used it and instead the patient had to go to an ER and was unhappy with that option,” she said. “So after running this call, I was pretty mad that I didn’t have this [medication] option, so I went back to the station and wrote a proposal for about two hours between calls.”

She said since the agency secured the medicine in November, it has helped divert 75% of eligible mental health patients from the emergency room. The remaining 25% had additional, separate medical issues that needed hospital attention.

“When you have someone who’s hearing voices or seeing things where they’re going to be touched a lot for vitals, it can be very traumatic,” Griffith said. “So for patients with low-acuity psychosis where they’re hearing voices or seeing things – they understand they’re not real – but they need help in order to just make it through the evening.”

Medics administer the medication on a conditional basis. The patient has to be willing to connect with one of ATCEMS’ mental health partners within 24 hours. ATCEMS helps the patient set up the appointment.

“We have multiple inpatient, mental health facilities in Travis County as well as respite for lower acuity needs,” Griffith said. “However, beds can be limited.”

The medication costs around 30 cents per dose, according to ATCEMS.

Below is a statement from Integral Care about the medication.

According to Integral Care, the Local Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disability Authority in Travis County, the (CHP) Responders’ access to Zyprexa provides the client immediate care and follow-up within their community instead of in the ER, which can be a traumatic experience for some.

Integral Care