In 2015 there were more than 60,000 calls for Birmingham Fire and Rescue emergency services. Of those calls, 20% were from the same 1,948 people – that means less than 1% of the city’s residents accounted for 20% of emergency calls. To address this problem Birmingham Fire and Rescue launched C.A.R.E.S. (Community Assistance, Referrals and Education Services) in 2016 to help decrease the dependency on emergency services by improving access to care for our city’s most vulnerable population.
Led by Lieutenant Ben Thompson and Chaplain Brian Blakes, the program works to decrease the dependency on emergency services through proactive patient advocacy, patient education, community collaboration and progressive policy change. Thompson and Blakes conduct scheduled home visits with citizens who have come to depend on 911 services to manage their chronic health conditions. They have found that people will always open the door for firefighters so they are able to reach the most at risk population.
The program is beginning to show promising results with a drop in 911 calls from their ‘frequent callers’ over the first 18 months of the program. This spring, Birmingham Fire and Rescue came to the Community Foundation with a grant request to purchase an additional vehicle. A second car will give them the ability to expand the program to at least ten home visits per day, doubling their capacity. The new vehicle will be in place by the end of August. To learn more about C.A.R.E.S. you can watch Lieutenant Thompson’s 2018 TEDx talk on the TEDxBirmingham Facebook page.