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CARE Resource Connection Fills a Public Safety, Health-Care Gap

The nonprofit connects chronic 911 callers to the resources they need so that fire departments aren’t tied up and those patients don’t end up having to get their health care from the emergency room.

A medical professional working on a tablet and a laptop.
Like many communities across the country, West Fargo, N.D., had a problem with people calling 911 repeatedly, utilizing the fire department’s and sometimes the emergency room’s resources but not really solving their problems.

“We might go to someone’s house 10 times in a row and then on the 11th 911 call, they ask to be transported to the hospital because their challenges didn’t get worked out the first 10 times,” said Daniel Fuller, chief of the West Fargo Fire Department.

Fuller finally called the CARE Resource Connection, which partnered with his department and set up a Community Health Alliance to help those people needing to call 911, and in turn help the fire department reduce its call load.

“We’re a growing community and we had about 300 calls to 911 added to the call volume each of the last three years,” Fuller said. “Once we implemented this program, we stopped the increase and actually cut the call volume from 200 calls from the year prior.”

Fuller said this year they are on target to halt the increase in calls altogether.

Fuller first reached out to the CARE Resource Connection, based in Minnesota, a couple of years ago to help with the 911 call problem. “They have a good model for performing these community health assessments and asking people if they are open and willing to accept help, and they get that help.”

That’s the key to the program: identifying people who need help and connecting them with appropriate resources.

“We’ve seen in our community, and it’s true across the country, where people find themselves not connected to resources that would help them with their quality of life.”

Care Resource Connection started in 2017 when Amy Lucht, a 20-year veteran case manager in health care, took a cue from her firefighter husband and launched the nonprofit.

Lucht said her husband used to come home from a call “heartsick.” He‘d say, “If only someone could come and help these people.”

Lucht began reaching out to fire departments and, by this summer, will have 12 cities on board. Now they reach out to her, as was the case with Fuller in West Fargo.

She’ll begin the conversation with the fire chief and find someone on staff who will be the liaison, someone she can rely on to make sure that once the program is off the ground it stays that way, and that there is follow-up with the patients.

She’ll train that point person and begin to recruit local health personnel to be part of the alliance.

It usually takes 30 days to train everyone and get the approval of the local city council. Then the program starts.

“We follow people from the hospital, we partner with the hospitals and the nursing homes and make sure that when [the patient] is sent home from the hospital or nursing home, they are connected with the resources they need,” Lucht said.

And the care doesn’t stop there.

“We send somebody within 48 hours of their discharge to check on them, make sure they have meds, food, we look at the discharge plan, make sure they have someone to help them,” Lucht said. “When you’re in the hospital, you’re not listening to what they’re saying about the discharge plan, you just want to go home.”

After the initial care is done, there’s still more follow-up to make sure the patients don’t end up back at the ER.

“We make sure somebody can come in to help after the initial crisis care is done,” Lucht said. “Medicare will only pay for a month of service. Who’s going to come in after that? Because I’m not interested in a roller-coaster. I want to make sure these folks are set.”


Jim McKay is the editor of Emergency Management magazine.