KCUR News
11:35 pm
Sat September 20, 2008

9-1-1 Assistance Program To Expand Throughout Metro Area

Kansas City, MO – A joint pilot program between the Kansas City Missouri Fire Department and the Visiting Nurse Association is expanding into several counties throughout the metro region. It recently received a half million dollar matching grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. KCUR's Elana Gordon reports.

The Citizen Assist Program allows the fire department to call on designated nurses and social workers to follow-up and help people the department initially comes into contact with through 9-1-1 calls. Richard Gist is the Assistant to the Kansas City Missouri Fire Chief and developed the program two years ago. He says he originally set out to understand why three quarters of the some 30,000 calls the fire department receives each year aren't considered real emergencies.

Gist: Well, initially we thought this was an emergency medical problem, where people were simply calling 9-1-1 with things that weren't emergencies and we needed to find something else for them to do.

But he says he found that it's a primary care problem, and that for many people, accessing social and medical services through the current system has become too complex and difficult to navigate on their own. Gist says the Citizen Assist Program has already helped 200 people connect with needed services, and he expects that the expanded program will help thousands more throughout the entire metro area.

Funding for health care coverage on KCUR has been provided by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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