Emergency Medicine, Mental Health

Seattle “Health One” program to address non-emergency 911 calls

From the Office of the Mayor

Seattle will launch a pilot program, called “Health One,” in which a team of specially trained firefighters accompanied by a social worker will help people downtown with mental health and substance abuse problems.

A special vehicle will be designated to serve as the lead Health One response unit to respond to incidents in the downtown core and adjacent residential neighborhood.

The goal is to reduce the number of non-emergency 911 calls and improve access to appropriate services for people with these issues.

“Many of the low acuity calls received by the fire department are related to homelessness, mental health, social needs, drug and alcohol use and chronic medical issues,” said Fire Chief Harold Scoggins. “These are healthcare needs that a typical emergency medical response unit is not well equipped to address. We can now look beyond the traditional method of transporting patients to an emergency room, and connect them with appropriate services.”

The unit will primarily respond to patients with the following incidents: behavioral crisis or substance abuse, chronic or low acuity medical complaints and/or social service needs.   

In 2018, 42 percent of medical calls to the Fire Department responded to were deemed “low acuity” calls. These calls generally resulted in no action or a non-emergency transport by an ambulance provider to a hospital’s emergency department.