Puget Sound Fire is in the process of hiring more social workers to be part of their FDCARES program, which will provide a visitation by a nurse and social worker to low acuity (non-emergent) 911 calls related to behavioral, mental health issues, falls, drug and alcohol issues, or any calls that would not require a trip to the emergency room.

Prior to 2013, Puget Sound Fire received many calls from people who didn’t necessarily need emergency services. Attempting to find solutions to assist “high utilizers” of 911 was and remains important to agencies. Diverting people who do not need emergent services from costly and overcrowded emergency rooms, drives down health costs and frees up limited resources for people experiencing true medical emergencies.

Puget Sound Fire started its nonemergency FDCARES program in 2013 to help meet the demands of the community. Currently this program uses nurses and firefighters to respond to calls dealing with mental and behavioral health, falls, drug and alcohol issues, etc.

However, it was still evident that the public needed more. Calls from people in need of drug and alcohol counseling along with existing calls related to mental health disturbances proved that additional social workers hired by the department could help. Puget Sound Fire is one of only a handful of fire departments in the country to hire nurses and social workers to work alongside firefighters.

Starting in September, Puget Sound Fire will send a team that comprises of a nurse and social worker to appropriate calls for service. This team uses a fire department pickup truck to travel to calls. Firefighters will do initial response and if they determine an FDCARES team is needed, they will make the request.

Puget Sound Fire’s FDCARES team will be available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. They will be able to respond to any referrals made overnight the following day. Puget Sound Fire will have three teams alternating on days for its entire service area, which includes SeaTac.

The FDCARES teams and Puget Sound Fire will also help people connect to local resources through SeaTac’s human services department.