BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — In the twin cities, local fire departments are seeing significant increases in mental health related calls.

In 2021, Bloomington-Normal firefighters and paramedics responded to an increased volume of behavioral health calls.

“We got some data for the last four years, and it shows about a 43% increase overall in mental health transports during that time,” said public information officer at the Bloomington Fire Department, Frank Friend.

Friend said, at the Bloomington Fire Department, that includes a 13% increase from 2020 to 2021. At the latest city council meeting, Fire Chief Eric West reported 863 behavioral health calls in 2020 and said there were around 890 in 2021.

“Surprisingly, June and July were the highest overall averages for those four years, with post-holiday months being a close second,” Friend said.

Firefighters and EMS personnel generally respond first to these calls, and their goal is to provide safe transport to an emergency room or local medical facility. Friend said BFD works with the PATH-CRISIS Center, police department and the health department to get patients the care that best suits them.

“The idea for us is to meet with our other agencies that work with mental health patients and meet those folks where they are and get them to resources that they need,” Friend said.

Mental health calls can range from someone feeling generally depressed to someone attempting suicide. Normal Fire Chief Mick Humer said the classification covers a wide gambit.

“By the time somebody calls EMS, it’s usually a violent situation or someone’s tried to hurt themselves,” Humer said.

Humer said Normal Fire is seeing a similar uptick in calls.

“A lot of it has to do with availability of psychiatrists and mental health workers in the area, metal health beds within hospitals. Over the last few years, those beds have kind of diminished,” Humer said.

There are many mental health services in McLean County, including an inpatient unit at Carle Bromenn for those needing intensive treatment.

If someone needs mental health resources, they’re encouraged to call path crisis at 2-1-1