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Portland Fire & Rescue launches new program to address health and social needs

CHAT 9-1-1 call response
Portland Fire & Rescue launches new program to address health and social needs of individuals calling 9-1-1 for non-emergent health concerns

PORTLAND, Ore. (Oct. 13, 2021)—Today, Portland Fire & Rescue received approval from City Council to launch a new community health program to address the health and social needs of community members calling 9-1-1 for non-emergent issues. PF&R is working toward launching the program in mid-November.

As first responders, firefighters are often the first to interact with a person who has dialed 9-1-1 for medical reasons. About a third of these calls are for issues that don’t require hospitalization or a trip to the emergency room.

 “Since I have become Fire Chief one of my main objectives is that Portland Fire & Rescue evolves from a place of emergency response alone, to one where preventative community health becomes a fundamental part of our overall mission,” said Portland Fire & Rescue’s Chief Boone. “Up until now we haven’t had a mechanism to allow us to spend the time needed to assess and treat community members on scene, and connect them with appropriate care and resources they need. We’re launching the Community Health Assess & Treat program to fill this pivotal gap. We believe that this program will help us better serve the community, improve the health outcomes of our community members and make use of limited emergency resources.”

The Community Health Assess & Treat (CHAT) program is designed to be a proactive intervention, reaching community members in their time of need with 1-on-1 support from a medical professional. CHAT will leverage the strengths of PF&R—the city’s largest licensed pre-hospital care workforce—to:

  • Provide individuals who call 9-1-1 for non-emergent health issues the care they need in the moment and connect them to the right resources to get them on the path to health improvement (e.g. connected to a Primary Care Physician, enrolled on Oregon Health Plan, etc.).
  • Provide education to community members regarding how to access appropriate healthcare in the future—so they use 9-1-1 as a last resort, instead of their first option.
  • Help reduce the number of individuals going to the emergency department for non-emergent issues.

“I am proud to support Portland Fire & Rescue as we enter into a partnership to create ‘Community Health Assess & Treat’ teams,” said Commissioner Hardesty. “Chief Boone eloquently set a vision of community health when she took the helm of the bureau, and I couldn’t be more excited to see that vision realized as we enter into this continued work that will help meet the health needs of our communities where they are at. We are truly innovating and building a new model that Portland can be proud of.”

Local healthcare non-profit, CareOregon is investing $2.5 million in PF&R’s CHAT program to build its capacity to best serve those eligible for the Oregon Health Plan (OHP). 

“CareOregon has been working for decades to find ways to help individuals access the care they need in the right setting,” said Eric C. Hunter, CareOregon CEO, “because we know that accessing preventative healthcare saves lives. We believe that this partnership with Portland Fire & Rescue is an opportunity to work upstream and help connect Oregon Health Plan members with ‘in the moment care’ and health education, so they can be better connected to the healthcare system and get the support they need.”

“We are excited about this historic partnership with CareOregon,” said Chief Boone. “Portland Fire & Rescue and CareOregon share a common commitment to health equity and a vision for creating a community where all of our neighbors have, and understand how to access, the health and social service supports they need to live healthy, productive lives.”

“We believe the first interaction we have with a community member who has called 9-1-1 may change the trajectory of their overall health, truly getting them the right care at the right time,” said Chief Boone.

CHAT is part of a larger effort to address community health and social equity issues in our region. It will be housed under PF&R’s new Community Health Division, alongside Portland Street Response and Community Connect.  

About CareOregon

For more than 25 years, CareOregon has offered health services and community benefit programs to Oregon Health Plan members. Today, we support the needs of more than 500,000 Oregonians through three coordinated care organizations, a Medicare Advantage plan, a Tribal Care Coordination program, a dental care organization and in-home medical care with Housecall Providers. CareOregon members have access to integrated physical, dental and mental health care and substance use treatment. We believe that good health requires more than clinics and hospitals, so we also connect members to housing, fresh food, education and transportation services. CareOregon is a mission-driven, community-based nonprofit with offices in Portland, Medford and Seaside, Oregon.