New AFR program hopes to reduce non-emergency 911 calls through home visits

By: Sara Yingling / JEMS

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Many may notice a new Albuquerque Fire Rescue unit driving around town.

In it, is a team of paramedics — but they won’t be responding to emergencies. Instead, they are making home visits.

While 911 is an emergency line, AFR says that’s not always the case.

They say there are some patients in need of medical or social help who have a history of calling 911. Their new program called “HEART” is hoping to change that.

“It’s completely opposite from the 911 call where we arrive, there’s an immediate problem that needs to be fixed. We are meeting with them in their home trying to see where they feel their needs are unmet and work with them to achieve goals that they want to set themselves,” said Nathaniel Meisner, Community EMS Captain.

Last year AFR responded to over 100,000 EMS based calls, which is about 85 percent of their calls.

To make a dent in that number and reduce the number of non-emergency 911 calls, they’ve started “HEART,” or Home Engagement Alternative Response Team.

“The HEART program is an initiative of the current mayoral administration,” said Meisner.

The idea spurred from their counterparts up north.

“We did some ride-alongs with Colorado Springs who has an extensive community EMS program. We also rode-along with Santa Fe,” said Meisner.

They now have their own team, comprised of AFR paramedics who are also certified community health workers.

Their day starts by planning what patients they will visit that day through their patient database.

“We try to look to see what types of things people are activating 911 for. We also look at how frequently they’re activating,” said Meisner.

They use the database coupled with an internal referral process where firefighters in the field can identify patients who might need assistance.

During the planned visit, the team’s job is to evaluate the patient’s situation and gather information in order to get them the most appropriate avenue of care.

“They go out and communicate with them. They engage other care providers, insurance providers, primary care physicians, emergency room physicians, or working with police department mobile crisis teams,” said Meisner.

The team will also help some patients prevent accidents before they happen through their Fall Prevention Program.

The HEART team will take a look at their homes to make sure tripping hazards are taken care of.

They will also help those with drug addictions by linking them up with services such as counseling or peer support in hopes of saving their lives before an overdose.

That will be through their Harm Reduction Program that they hope to get underway in November.

“The fire department is in a unique situation that the community trusts us and we want to build upon that trust and help them,” said Meisner.

How does this benefit you?

AFR says if they can get the number of non-emergency calls down, they will have more resources ready to handle major calls like fires, car crashes, or even heart attacks.

AFR says they hope to see at least a 50-percent reduction in non-emergency calls over the next year.

Watch vide here.

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