AFR program proves successful in reducing non-emergency 911 calls

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A program designed to cut down on non-emergency 911 calls in Albuquerque appears to be working. 

Last year, Albuquerque Fire Rescue had the highest call volume per firefighter in the nation. The HEART Program is now changing that and helping those in need at the same time. 

Opaline Richard has gotten to know Albuquerque firefighters and paramedics from Station 2 very well in the last few years. She experiences a lot of falls at her home. 

“It helped me a whole lot,” Richard said. “I live by myself and it has helped me a whole lot. If I fall, I have a medical alert button I push.”

That button triggers a 911 response.

Richard needed to use it three times in just one month, so AFR identified her as a perfect candidate for its HEART Program, which stands for home engagement and alternative response team. 

“We work with folks that activate 911 frequently and work with them to meet some of their medical and social needs so they don’t need 911 as often,” Captain Nathaniel Meisner said. 

AFR found it wasn’t just Richard’s age that was the issue, so was the condition of her home. There were a lot of trip hazards, so AFR reached out to the Optimist Club for help. 

“They went out on a Saturday and did a work day, and they brought in at least 10 folks, hauled off four or five truckloads of things from her home,” Capitan Meisner said. 

“We’re always looking for new ways to help out the community and this just came together,” Corky Frederick with the Optimist Club said. 

It was something simple that made a huge difference. 

“Since we’ve engaged with this individual patient she hasn’t needed 911 which is really a success story. That is what this is about,” Capitan Meisner said. 

Opaline Richard is just one of 70 people this program has already helped and the hope is that it will keep growing. 

“As we’re able to grow and expand that will significantly impact call volume over time,” Capitan Meisner said.

“Your family can’t help you all the time, they have families of their own. You have to learn how to do stuff for yourself, and if this program can help a lot of people they’ll be grateful,” Richard said.

The program started operating in August and has already been successful in reducing 911 calls by those in the program by 59 percent. 

There are five paramedics on the team who work citywide. 

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