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Minn. FD works to reduce 911 calls, connect patients with resources

The Albert Lea Fire Rescue community risk reduction program provides follow-up with EMS patients and has the interest of other agencies

By Sarah Stultz
Albert Lea Tribune

ALBERT LEA, Minn. — A new program is in the works led by Albert Lea Fire Rescue aimed at reducing secondary 911 calls and connecting residents with resources to help them avoid regular trips to the emergency room.

Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Laskowske gave a presentation about the program during the Albert Lea City Council meeting on Monday.

Laskowske described the program as a community risk reduction program.

After someone calls 911 and is taken to the hospital, firefighters, who are also trained EMTs, will follow up with the resident and ask if they would like a consultation to help them figure out resources to help them in their daily living to prevent future repeat visits to the emergency room.

Resources might include things such as a physical therapist, physician or even something like installing grab bars to help someone be more stable in their home.

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Laskowske said they have been working with a nonprofit called Care Resource Connection and found other local partners who are interested in getting involved and providing funding so that there is no cost to the city to implement the program.

He said while seniors will see the biggest benefit from the program, they are also open to working with all ages and groups.

He said the firefighters hear all the time that people don’t know about different resources available to them. The department, who goes to all medical 911 calls, often goes to calls numerous times with the same individuals without seeing a change in what led them there.

He gave the example that most people don’t know that within most insurance programs if someone is a fall risk they are automatically approved to have access to a consultation with a physical therapist.

He also gave the example of a 911 call he responded to recently where someone needed a lift assist. The man told him he was tired of continuing to have to call in for help. Laskowske said he found out the man was a veteran and there were opportunities through Veterans Affairs that he didn’t know existed. They also helped line him up to get grab bars installed in his home and a modified Hoyer lift so his wife could help.

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“That’s the hope with the program is that we can continue to bring anybody else we find into this program and bring those resources to people,” he said.

He noted Mayo Clinic Health System has been one of the entities interested in partnering on the program and noted that if someone goes to the emergency room twice in one day, they can’t bill insurance the second time.

Fire Capt. Bart Berven has been a large part of developing the program for Albert Lea, and he said they heard about a similar program at a fire conference they attended.

“The overall goal within this program is to enrich the lives of people within our community — to help them live a better life without constantly having to call 911 or constantly go to the hospital,” Laskowske said.

First Ward Councilor Rachel Christensen said she was impressed that the department has taken on the initiative to help residents in the community. She said she thinks it is going to be well received.

Mayor Rich Murray said at first when he had first heard about the program, he was worried about how much it might cost the city to implement, but noted in the end it might actually cut down on costs long-term.

City Manager Ian Rigg said he was also excited about the programs and thinks it will work well with some other restructuring taking place within the department.

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