Cities Impose Fees on Senior Homes for Misuse of 911 Services

Cities are charging senior care facilities fees for unnecessary 911 calls, citing misuse of emergency resources. The move aims to encourage facilities to take greater responsibility for resident care and reduce taxpayer burden.

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Hadeel Hashem
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Cities Impose Fees on Senior Homes for Misuse of 911 Services

Cities Impose Fees on Senior Homes for Misuse of 911 Services

Cities across the United States are taking action against senior care facilities that rely heavily on 911 services for non-emergency situations, such as assisting residents who have fallen. In an effort to curb the misuse of emergency resources, some cities have begun charging these facilities fees for unnecessary 911 calls. The issue is particularly acute in Illinois, where lift assists now account for 1 in 20 of all 911 fire calls, the highest proportion in the nation.

Why this matters: This issue highlights the need for senior care facilities to take greater responsibility for providing adequate care and support to their residents, and for cities to ensure that emergency resources are allocated efficiently. This issue highlights the need for senior care facilities to take greater responsibility for providing adequate care and support to their residents, and for cities to ensure that emergency resources are allocated efficiently. Finding a balance between the needs of residents and the responsibilities of care facilities will be key to maintaining effective emergency response systems.

Nationwide, non-emergency 911 calls for lift assists from assisted living and senior homes have surged by 30% to nearly 42,000 calls annually. In Rockford, Illinois, five assisted living facilities called for non-injury lift assists 233 times last year, a threefold increase from 2021. Firefighters and experts contend that senior care homes should have the capability to handle these calls internally, rather than relying on emergency services. "It doesn't make sense. Why are they calling us?" questions Chad Callison, a veteran firefighter.

The rise in lift assist calls has angered first responders, who argue that these calls place an undue burden on taxpayers and divert firefighters from genuine emergencies. "You go in there and they have staff all over the place. It's part of our job that's being taken advantage of, and we've mostly stayed quiet about it," says Kevin Joles, EMS division chief in Lawrence, Kansas. However, senior care homes maintain that they lack the ability to safely lift fallen residents, citing concerns about staff back injuries and potential liabilities.

Despite the availability of tools like cloth straps with handles and hydraulic lifts that can make lifting safer and easier, some senior care facilities persist in relying on 911 services. An anonymous nurse from an assisted living facility in Greensboro, North Carolina, stated,

In response to the problem, cities and states are beginning to impose fees on senior facilities for non-emergency lift assist calls, with charges ranging from $100 to $800. Josef Rutz, the fire department administrator in Anchorage, Alaska, explains, "The first lift is free, but a facility's second lift assist within 12 months costs $250." Other cities implementing similar fees include Rocklin, California; Naples, Florida; Lincoln, Nebraska; Mequon, Wisconsin; and Kansas City, Missouri.

The introduction of fees for non-emergency lift assist calls is intended to motivate senior care facilities to take greater responsibility for providing adequate care and support to their residents. By reducing their reliance on emergency services for non-life-threatening situations, cities aim to ensure that resources are available for true emergencies and that taxpayers are not unfairly burdened. The aging population and increasing demand for senior care necessitate a balance between the needs of residents and the responsibilities of care facilities to maintain effective emergency response systems.

Key Takeaways

  • Cities are charging senior care facilities fees for unnecessary 911 calls, citing misuse of emergency resources.
  • Non-emergency 911 calls for lift assists from senior homes have surged 30% nationwide to 42,000 calls annually.
  • Firefighters argue that senior care homes should handle lift assists internally, rather than relying on emergency services.
  • Fees for non-emergency lift assist calls range from $100 to $800, aiming to motivate facilities to take greater responsibility.
  • The goal is to ensure emergency resources are allocated efficiently and taxpayers aren't unfairly burdened.