CONWAY, Ark. – First responders in Faulkner County are joining together to help those struggling with mental health and to provide long-term solutions instead of what they say were band-aids to problems they see every day.

Ty Ledbetter with the Conway Fire Department said that through CATCH, the Central Arkansas Team for Community Health, they’re aiming to streamline communications and provide solutions faster to people who need care.

“It’s incredibly sad to see this,” Ledbetter said. “People are afraid to ask for help, they don’t know how to ask for help and then for first responders, we don’t know how to help them.”

Ledbetter says through CATCH they’re aiming to know exactly what to do when they are called out to help those with mental health issues and he says it’s coming at just the right time.

“Over the last five years, our calls have increased over 30% and that doesn’t correlate with our population growth,” Ledbetter said. “The majority of these calls are going to be something to do with behavioral health.”

County ambulance provider Pafford Medical Services is one of many other groups also involved in CATCH. Director of Operational Support Sedley Tomlinson said they see people struggling every day.

“We have calls on a daily, weekly, monthly, basis for behavioral health,” Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson said CATCH will streamline communication among all parties.

“So, with the creation of CATCH, we’re going to have a big advocacy group as well as local resources for not only behavioral health, but for homeless,” Tomlinson said.

The group will be able to address specific problems and provide clothing, shelter, food, and more, and Captain Ledbetter says bringing light to the issue is important.

“There’s this stigma associated with mental health and behavioral health, and we’ve got to break through that, if we don’t break through it, we’re not going to break the cycle,” Tomlinson said.

The full list of groups involved include, Arisa Health, Baptist Health – Conway, City of Conway, Conway Behavioral Health, Conway Fire Department, Conway Police Department, Conway Regional Health System, Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office and Pafford Medical Services.

The group is aiming to be fully up and going in 2024.