Housing First facility has not reduced fire department medical calls to date

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Capital City Fire Rescue calls have not decrease noticeably with the opening of the Housing First facility.

    Fire Chief Rich Etheridge said on Action Line Thursday that when the program opened they were anticipating that there would be a drastic reduction in the number of EMS calls for the homeless population that the department deals with regularly.

    When they didn't see that big dip in the call volume, the chief says they started meeting with Housing First staff to find out why that's not occurring since the hospital and Rain Forest Recovery have seen declines.

    "So we spent some time with them this week and we're educating them on how to take care of seizures and things like that," the chief said.  "These are people with serious and real medical issues so they're going to need 911 services.  This isn't going to eliminate all of them, but it will eliminate some."

    The chief said in the last two months they  responded to the Housing First facility about 50 times.  He said residents need to know that staff is available on site to help them rather than calling 911 like they have in the past.

    The chief described the Housing First staff as "fantastic" and believes the department will have a great relationship with them.

    In the meantime, the year has already established a new record for the number of calls.

    The chief had the number as of the end of the day Wednesday amounted to just over 51-hundred.  They're anticipating hitting 53-hundred calls by the year.  He said that would amount to about a 17 percent increase over last year.  

    The fire department has set a new record for calls for the fourth year in a row.  The chief expects the trend to continue in 2018.



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