Stockholm is the first city worldwide to deploy an ambulance particularly for responding to mental health crises. A year after its launch, its notable data proves its success.
During its first year, the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PAM) ambulance responded to more than 1,000 people in need. On average, the PAM team responds to around 135 calls monthly – and they have only been contacted repeatedly by 96 people in total. This low number of repeated crises demonstrates the efficacy of having a dedicated team who’s there to listen to everyone in need of counseling.
Out of those 1,036 individuals admitted during the first year, only 1/4 went on to longer-term inpatient care. As PAM paramedic Anki Björnsdotter told VICE:
“It used to be the police who handled these kinds of calls. But just the presence of the police can easily cause a patient to feel like they’ve done something wrong. Mental illness is nothing criminal, so it doesn’t make sense.”
Although the city of Stockholm is quite big, PAM is willing to go wherever there is need across the region. Before they take any action, Björnsdotter and her team take some time to understand the situation further:
“We talk to the person in order to make a call about whether we should bring the patient to the hospital, or give them a ride home,” she explains. Once the team ascertains the situation, they offer help on the spot or bring the person in for an evaluation and longer care.
The interior of the special ambulance shows the obvious difference between a typical emergency response vehicle and the PAM. While a typical ambulance would have an interior taken up by stretchers and medical equipment, instead the PAM is outfitted with comfortable chairs and a desk to create a relaxing environment conducive to discussion and therapy.
Concerning the future of PAM, Björnsdotter said: “I believe we will look back and think, ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’ I really hope similar services will be available to cover Sweden’s major cities, at least.”
Fortunately, due to PAM’s success in Stockholm, more Swedish regions such as Skåne, Örebro, Blekinge, and Jönköping are planning to create their own PAMs.