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City of El Cajon launches new program to help non-emergency 911 callers

By Marie Coronel,


A new program in El Cajon is changing the way 911 calls are handled.

Officials say it’s a better use of resources. Before on Tuesday, when you call 911, an ambulance and firefighters are automatically sent to you. But now, non-life-threatening calls will be triaged by a nurse.

“So what happens if you call 911 for a bad cold, and you didn't know if it was pneumonia," said El Cajon Mayor Bill Well.

"We might not need to send an ambulance or fire trucks and 5 firefighters and a police car.”

And that’s why the City of El Cajon has partnered up with AMR or American Medical Response to help triage 911 calls.

Based on the person’s needs an ambulance may be sent or for less serious calls they’ll be sent to a Nurse Navigator who will work with the caller to determine what type of treatment or care they need. This could include urgent care visits, telehealth appointments, prescription refills, or transportation.

Every year, 911 Dispatchers in El Cajon get about 16,000 calls, of which they’ve discovered more than 3,000 did not need emergency care.

Officials say this program will cut costs and will allow first responders to focus on true emergencies.

“At any point if it's determined that it's a true 911 level call or if they need a full 911 response we'll make sure they get that," said Heartland Fire Chief Bent Koch.

The City has already secured enough funding to pay for this program for a year. After that, the Council will revisit the issue and determine how to move forward.

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