ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - It's a nagging problem that costs taxpayer money and slows emergency response times.
Some people are repeatedly calling 911, sometimes dozens of times, for medical issues that aren't exactly emergencies.
Each of those calls typically requires a fire truck and an ambulance to respond costing a lot of money and tying up resources needed for real emergencies.
"When you look at their actual cases, their situation costs the taxpayer tens of thousands of dollars," Albuquerque Fire Department Chief James Breen said.
So AFD and the city are starting to study a new approach known as a community paramedic program.
A community paramedic program's purpose is to better identify and serve chronic callers to keep them from misusing emergency services. Existing paramedics would receive special training to become community paramedics.
In one possible configuration, a community paramedic could be dispatched to a repeat 911 caller's non-emergency call instead of a truck and ambulance. That paramedic could then help address chronic health issue and connect patients to services they may not have known were available.
"It could be as simple as contacting their primary care physician who might not know any of this is going on," said Dr. Drew Harrell, AFD's medical director.
Another option would be to have community paramedics make regular house calls to patients who repeatedly call 911 before they can call to try and prevent the call from being made in the first place.
In both cases, the hope is that AFD's resources can be better used for true emergencies, making for a more efficient department.
"It means that we'll have better response times because the trucks won't be tied up on these calls, and these individuals will be better connected to the medical community, and they're going to be healthier," Breen said.
The study is expected to take several months.
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