By SDCN Editor
El Cajon, CA–Beginning on January 31, El Cajon residents who call 9-1-1 may receive expanded medical services through the new El Cajon Community Care program, an innovative healthcare solution provided through a partnership between the City of El Cajon and American Medical Response (AMR).
The program provides additional medical options by connecting 9-1-1 callers with the appropriate level of medical care.
Residents will see no change when calling 9-1-1 for life-threatening emergencies. An ambulance will still be dispatched when calls are received for urgent, life-threatening, or potentially life-threatening emergencies.
If a condition is determined to not be a medical emergency, callers will be transferred to a “Nurse Navigator” to determine an appropriate path for treatment and assist in coordinating access to care. This program helps El Cajon residents receive the right level of care for their needs, which may include a referral to a local clinic or urgent care. There is no cost to the caller to access the Nurse Navigator services.
“We’re incredibly excited to partner with AMR to create this program, a first-of-its-kind in California, which will benefit our community by providing our residents with the right level of medical care while easing the burden on our emergency first responders,” said El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells.
“Through this collaborative effort, we are taking emergency medical response to the next level in El Cajon,” said Kevin Mercer, Regional Director for AMR in San Diego and Imperial Counties. “El Cajon Community Care will enable us to best serve those needing medical care regardless of their condition.”
“Providing high-level emergency care is critically important,” said Bent Koch, Chief of Heartland Fire & Rescue, which serves the City of El Cajon, as well as the cities of La Mesa and Lemon Grove. “El Cajon Community Care’s holistic approach will connect people with the most appropriate level of care that they need. Reducing unnecessary emergency medical responses will free up the stretched thin and limited emergency first response resources for higher acuity level emergencies.”
Nurse Navigators are California state-licensed nurses with professional experience in emergency nursing. They are also specially trained to manage, or triage, medical calls. After initially triaging the call, the nurses can connect callers to clinics in El Cajon and the surrounding area and arrange transportation to and from appointments. Nurse Navigators can also connect callers directly to telehealth physicians who can provide care online and prescribe medication if necessary. The Nurse Navigator service does not require the caller to have medical insurance.
With the launch of the El Cajon Community Care program, California joins ten other states and the District of Columbia in integrating the Nurse Navigation Program into 9-1-1 systems to alleviate strain on EMS and healthcare systems while ensuring that high- and low-acuity calls reach the most appropriate level of care.
Approximately 16,000 medical-related 9-1-1 calls are made annually in El Cajon, one-third of which are considered non-emergencies. In March 2022, the El Cajon City Council set aside $300,000 to fund the El Cajon Community Care program, which is expected to last more than a year.