San Francisco Fire Department’s EMS-6 program has been in existence since 2004. It focuses on people who, for whatever reason, frequently use the 911 system. We include in that group anyone who uses City emergency services four or more times in a 30-day period, or ten or more times in a 12-month period. Our team meets these vulnerable individuals wherever they may be—on the scene of an emergency, at hospitals, or in the community—and provides intensive, wrap-around care to connect them to appropriate resources. Our goal is to break the cycle of people who rotate from the street to the emergency room and back to street. This can involve resources such as shelters, emergency psychiatric services, or substance use detox and treatment facilities.
While finding the right resources for our City’s residents, the EMS-6 program consequently helps to decrease the strain on the 9-1-1 ambulance and hospital systems. This means getting people to the care they need and creating more capacity for our City as a whole to respond to emergencies.
In addition to its core functions, EMS-6 has been responsive to the needs of the City of San Francisco during the COVID-19 pandemic assisting with a host of new duties. During our involvement, EMS-6 has:
- Partnered with providers from the Department of Public Health to screen members of the community for COVID-19 symptoms, and evaluated clients at Shelter in Place and Isolation and Quarantine sites to avoid unnecessary ER visits;
- Responded as task force leaders to stabilize facilities experiencing severe staffing shortages, such as skilled nursing and elderly facilities;
- Supported staff at an isolation and quarantine site for individuals with alcohol use disorder;
- Provided site management at mobile testing sites;
- Administered COVID-19 testing in the field; and
- Prepared to respond as COVID-19 first responders and to provide staff for field clinics in the event of increased pandemic surge levels.