Sunday, February 1, 2009

frequent caller

  One of the things we try and work on at the shelter is cutting back on the number of 911 calls and wasted emergency room visits among the homeless.  Studies of my city have shown that there is a group of homeless/mentally ill/both citizens make up an average of 1 in 7 visits to the downtown hospital and each one comes in an average of once a week; mostly for non-emergency situations.  We try and help people find other ways to deal with their situations.  

Right now though we have a client who is seriously abusing the 911 system which is of course a strain of resources and costs the public a whole ton of money.  It's one thing to call 911 because you have a real emergency, that's a good thing, that's what it's there for.  Then there are the people who call 911 for non emergencies because they have no transport to get to the hospital or don't really comprehend the non-severity of the situation.  Then there's calling 911 and making up complaints for an unknown reason, that's what this client is doing.  

The most likely reason the client is doing this, is that they need something.  The thing is, calling 911 telling them you can't breath and getting an ambulance to the hospital doesn't provide anything in the long term.  When you're hurting, and lonely, and lacking personal attention this works really well, in the short term.  You get paramedics, nurses and a doctor (or probably nurse practitioner) looking after you.  In the short term you probably get at least a bit of TLC.  Although, if this is the 5th time this week tempers may be getting shorter.  We're trying to work with the emergency call center to cut down on unnecessary ambulances, but then this client just goes to another drop in, and there are many in the area.  So what can be done?  

There's no easy answer in a situation like this.  Obviously the 911/hospital system is not the place for this client to have her needs addressed, but I'm not sure that such a place currently exists.  If group homes were actually group homes that might work, but warehousing her somewhere else really won't do any good.  I think maybe we should give her the number of a crisis line and see if she can call that sometimes instead of 911, and we should also try and pay a little attention to her.  

What will happen, is that social assistance will stop paying her ambulance bills, she'll wind up with a huge amount of debt and start getting less and less on her welfare cheque.  As this will give her less money to fund her substance abuse this may actually get her attention.  However, there are other ways of getting alcohol and again, it really doesn't address the route of her problem.  The hospital staff will get sick of her, and she may resort to more extreme measures to get the attention (or whatever it is) she needs.  

This post has no answers, only more questions... 


Helen said...

hello - i just found your blog and wanted to say how much i have enjoyed your 'ramblings'.



Still Dreaming said...

Thanks for your support! I'm glad that people enjoy my random thoughts as I try to process and reflect.