‘HEART’ program offers alternative 911 call response

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Emergency calls for help in Albuquerque are through the roof, and that’s why Albuquerque Fire Rescue is expanding a program that offers an alternative response.

It’s a way to cut down on seeing the same people over and over again, by getting them meaningful help, services, and support that helps address chronic issues.

“The H.E.A.R.T. actually stands for ‘Home Engagement Alternative Response,’” said AFR Paramedic Capt. Melvin Martinez. 

Martinez is in charge of the HEART Division of Albuquerque Fire Rescue. It’s an alternative response team that gives people more comprehensive care and follow up, before or after an emergency.

“Call volume is through the roof. As a department we have to figure out how we’re going to mitigate this, how we’re going to make it better, and I think HEART allows us to affect call volume, and try to help people before they even call 911,” said Martinez. 

Oftentimes, first responders see the same people over and over again, for falls, substance use, or strokes. 

The HEART Division takes a deeper look at what’s going on, and tries to come up with more long-term solutions.

“We try to find solutions to their problems. I think a lot of times EMS is not going to fix their ailments or things they are chronically suffering from. So we go in there and try to help them navigate the healthcare system, help them find a primary care physician,” Martinez said.

Martinez says they are always looking at new ways to expand those services to get help to people who want it.  It’s why they’ve added substance use help resources, and fentanyl test strips to their leave behind kits.