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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

UC Davis Fire Department launches program to improve mental health, basic needs access across campus

Health 34 is available 24/7 to help individuals find resources and necessities before a crisis occurs

 

By MADISON PETERS — campus@theaggie.org

 

On Sep. 5, 2023, the UC Davis Fire Department launched Health 34, a new non-emergency service dedicated to reducing crises by providing services for mental health and access to basic necessities across campus. The program is available every day and hour of the year.

UC Davis Fire Chief Nathan Trauernicht started Health 34 in order to address disparities in the emergency system and other institutions, specifically those geared toward mental health.

While the program has been in the works for seven years, it was presented to the Chancellor’s Board after witnessing the exacerbation of mental health issues due to the pandemic, according to Trauernicht.

“I use the tagline, ‘reimagining compassion,’” Trauernicht said. “How do we as an institution do something different than what we’ve been doing that’s obviously not helping everyone that needs help? How do we navigate people [towards] resources, and then how do we find out what the barriers are to them accessing it? Then, how do we take those barriers down wherever we can with the goal of preventing crisis wherever we can?”

Trauernicht explained that if someone is experiencing any struggle, from anxiety about school to food or housing insecurity, they can call the seven-digit number: 530-754-3434. There, they can talk to a Health 34 provider who can either lend an ear to listen or navigate people to the resources they need at zero cost.

“At its core, we are service navigators and health educators available 24/7, 365 days a year to be there with you in the time that you need us, to give you resources and reassurance and to check in and find out if you are continuing to support your ongoing wellness,” Trauernicht said.

This program is unique in that members of the team can come meet the caller in person as long as they are on the UC Davis campus, according to Stormi Homdus, a Health 34 provider. 

Upon receiving a call, Homdus said that members of the Health 34 team would arrive in a temperature-controlled, ADA-compliant van that provides a safe environment to talk in. All providers have extensive backgrounds in both the emergency system and as paramedics.  

The van is also equipped with necessities such as ice packs, pencils, deodorant, feminine hygiene products and shelf-stable foods.

Homdus then spoke on the range of services that Health 34 provides.

“If you don’t have access or don’t want to go to the emergency room, but you need an ice pack, we can help you with that,” Homdus said. “Anxiety, depression [or] thoughts of self-harm, anyone is welcome to call us for that. We’ve helped people with emergency housing — we have access to get that ball rolling and we’ve helped people move their stuff as well. We’ve given people snacks, food or anything to make their day a little bit better.”

The services provided by the program are not only available to UC Davis students but also to faculty, unhoused populations and anyone else who may be struggling in the Davis area, according to Blythe Clark, a Health 34 provider.

Clark said that the team’s goal is to meet every case with compassion and kindness.

“There is a huge benefit to human connection and having someone answer the phone,” Clark said. “There’s a voice on the other side of the line that’s here to be with you when the world feels really unmanageable.”

Since its launch, Health 34 has successfully answered over 235 calls for assistance and has had more than 1000 interactions, according to Clark.

The program collaborates with many on-campus resources such as Aggie Compass, The Pantry, the LGBTQIA+ Resource Center, Health and Wellness Services and countless others. 

Health 34 can also navigate and provide transportation to these services, but can also provide their own services to fill in the gaps during the hours when these resources are not available, according to Trauernicht.

When asked about goals for the upcoming quarter, Health 34 Provider Destiny Rogers said that she hopes to make more connections with resources both on and off campus, on top of hoping people would feel more comfortable calling when they need help.

“Our goals are going to be visibility and marketing and just making sure that everyone knows we exist,” Rogers said. “One of our goals is to let people know or embrace the fact [that] we are here for them no matter what. They are not taking up a resource, they are just as important as anyone else and they can truly call any time. People really struggle with the 24/7 aspect, but we are truly there 24/7 and we hope people embrace that.”

Additionally, Clark said that the program is looking for student feedback to help improve their service in any way possible.

“If students know about us and see a place that they think we would be helpful or they’ve had contact with us and have feedback, we are really open to learn from them,” Clark said.

Trauernicht encouraged people to stop by the red Health 34 van if they see it on campus  to get any resources they might need or even just to chat.  

Trauernicht ultimately wants Health 34 to reimagine how care is given to a community.

“No matter who you are or where you come from, we all struggle,” Trauernicht said. “We want to make UC Davis a place where we recognize that struggle is part of life and no one has to go through it alone. Please reach out for help early so we can connect people to resources before they reach a point of crisis.”

Written by: Madison Peters — campus@theaggie.org

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