TUCKER, Ga. — DeKalb County was second in the nation to put a unique program in place. In late 2020, the program sent non-emergency calls to a line staffed by nurses in order to have more ambulances available for emergencies.
People calling 911 for non-emergencies was affecting response times in DeKalb County, but they found a solution to improve public safety and get people the help they need.
DeKalb County's 911 dispatch center said their focus is always to keep the community safe. The county partnered with American Medical Response (AMR), its ambulance provider, to keep response times down.
"I think it’s cutting edge," Georgia Regional AMR Director Chris Valentin said.
The nurse navigator program runs with the touch of a finger.
"Each position has a button where they can do a one-button transfer into the nurse navigator," DeKalb County E-911 Director Alesia Guest said.
DeKalb County dispatchers transfer certain calls to registered nurses on a line operated out of Texas through the nurse navigator program if they think the call doesn’t involve an actual emergency.
“They’re able to ask key questions," Valentin said. "They’re able to give advice over the phone, so you don’t need an ambulance to respond. They can set up doctor’s appointments.”
"They also provide them with opportunities to be transported via Lyft to an urgent care, as opposed to being online or waiting in emergency rooms," Guest said.
DeKalb County Fire Rescue Chief Darnell Fullum said since the program launched two years ago, 8,000 calls have been transferred to the nurse navigator line, and they were able to determine ambulances or fire trucks weren't needed 31% of the time.
“We’re really excited about the option it gives our citizens," Fullum said. "By not sending ambulances and fire trucks to where it’s not necessary, we will see an improvement not only in response times but having those available units.”
DeKalb County is the first county in Georgia to have the nurse navigator program, and Henry County recently joined as well.