The Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Department (AFR), formerly known as the Albuquerque Fire Department, responded to 7,000 mental health calls last year.
Upwards of 80% to 85% of all AFR emergency calls are for emergency medical care as oppose to “firefighting” which was the major reason for changing the name of the department.
All Albuquerque Fire and Rescue firefighters are not only firefighters but are also fully licensed emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics.
More than one out of 10 emergency calls to 911 for AFR are mental health-related.
In 75 percent of those calls, an ambulance had to take a patient to the hospital.
The AFR provided data that revealed most mental health calls happen Downtown or in the International District, which is not at all surprising.
Downtown Albuquerque has a number of “homeless” shelters and charitable organizations to help feed and house the homeless all within a 5-mile radius of each other.
The shelters provide help and assistance to the approximate 3,500 homeless in Albuquerque, many who suffer from mental illness.
The International District is located in the SE heights and has a chronic narcotics problem which contributes to drug overdose calls.
Albuquerque Fire Rescue is working collaboratively with Albuquerque Police and the Bernalillo County Behavioral Health Initiative to help those who need it the most.
As part of the city’s efforts, families who have loved ones with mental health conditions are actually teaching AFR first responders on how to respond more empathetic with people who suffer from mental illness.
AFR Paramedics are also being trained to respond to autistic patients.
AFR has also been working with APD to better deescalate mental health situations.
The increase emphasis and change in tactics when dealing with mental health calls is directly related to the Keller Administration implementing the AFD Mobile Health Care Outreach Program.
Last year, AFR had a total of 174,426 calls with 110,000 resulting in a dispatch.
The number medical first responder calls last year for basic life support was 65,000 with the number of advanced life support calls being 45,000.
Further the number of other non-emergency calls was 60,000.
The 2018-2019 AFR approved budget is $82.9 with an overall increase of 8.5% or 6.5 million above last year’s budget.
AFR’s 2018-2019 adopted budget funds 730 full time-positions.
Reference: City of Albuquerque Budget, page 106, Fire Department Budget:
AFR MOBILE HEALTH CARE OUTREACH PROGRAM
During the 2018-2019 budget process, the Keller Administration secured $3.2 million dollars to develop and establish the “AFR Mobile Health Care and Community Outreach Program”.
The AFR Mobile Health Care and Community Outreach Program consists of six positions and three rescue vehicles.
The mobile AFR unit has a paramedic and a person on board who can do community outreach and respond to indigent or homeless people or people in crisis.
The goal is to free up time for police officers and firefighters to respond to more pressing calls for service.
The programs goal is to shift resources from high cost reactive strategies, including a full crew responding to a 911 call from someone who does not actually need an ambulance.
The program intends to shift those calls to less resource-intensive approaches like home or site visits to common callers and community risk reduction efforts for private residences and public places.
The program will also include a robust and visible Basic Life Support Unit presence in the Southeast Heights and other high needs area.
This new program will allow the Albuquerque Fire Department to provide additional services as a partner to the city-wide effort to interrupt the cycle of crime and lead to a safer city.
The AFR Mobile Health Care Outreach Program was a concept proposed by Mayoral candidate Gus Pedrotty.
The program makes perfect sense and will be fully funded July 1, 2018 when the new budget takes effect.
The program is a clear and dramatic reflection of the change in attitudes and priorities from the previous administrations attitude of favoring a reduction in social services.
Mayor Tim Keller is to be commended for adopting the program which is already beginning to have an impact.