Spokane program provides transport for non-urgent medical situations

Spokane program provides transport for non-urgent medical situations

Firefighters deal with a lot of 911 calls that aren’t exactly emergencies, and now the city is unveiling its solution to the problem: a six-month pilot program called Spokane Ride to Care.

City officials created the idea for this program nearly three years ago.

10,000 times a year, the Spokane Fire Department heads to an emergency call, and doesn’t find an emergency on the other end.

“Every time someone calls 911, even for those non-urgent types of issues, it takes a big red fire truck with the capability to resuscitate someone and save people’s lives and an ambulance out of the system,” said Brian Schaeffer, Spokane Fire Department.

And, it costs a lot of money.

So on Monday, the city unveiled its solution.

Spokane Ride to Care will provide rides for patients with non-emergency medical situations.
“It’s a collaborative between multiple jurisdictions and multiple agencies, both non-profit and profit, healthcare programs, and partially government,” said Schaeffer.

The program launched in January, and has already been used to transport patients to urgent care centers instead of the emergency room.

“Through them I was actually able to get to urgent care three times, which helped me a lot because I could have very easily died,” said Larz Cale, a Ride to Care user.

While agencies fund this 6 month pilot program, the city admits it hasn’t quite decided how the program will be funded if it continues.

“We accept the risk and uncertainty,” said Julie Honekamp, a leader at SNAP, “because we know in the long run, Spokane’s low income citizens will receive quality care and have decreased health costs and our community will be stronger.”

Those who have used the program say they are grateful for the cost-effective option.

“They are probably the only reason I’m standing here today,” said Cale.

Evaluations of Ride to Care will be done through the Spokane Health District.

SNAP says it will use those evaluations to determine how the program should continue beyond the 6 month pilot program.