Pinellas Co. could turn to nurses to help with 911 call spike

911 calls have increased in Pinellas County. The county is now handling 790,000 calls a year, at a time when they the county has 30 9-1-1 dispatcher vacancies. 

Usually when you call 911, you talk to a dispatcher who determines if you need an ambulance, a fire truck, EMT etc.

Now, the 911 dispatch center is looking at something new to reduce the number of non-emergency calls clogging up the line. Soon, if someone calls in with a non-emergency situation, the dispatcher could patch that call over to a skilled nurse practitioner to respond to minor emergencies.

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The goal is to contract with a company to provide the service for a set fee per call. 

Pinellas County says the system is working well in other parts of the country. 

“My cat is in a tree, I lost my child, I have a rash on my arm. We get a wide range of calls. Even if these nurses can take 500 or a couple thousand calls off of our hands, that could really help us,” explained Jim Forgarty, Pinellas County’s Director of Public Safety. 

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