LAFD's SOBER Unit aims to reduce drug, alcohol-related 911 calls

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The Los Angeles Fire Department is proposing a new SOBER Unit to help drug and alcohol abusers who tie up 911 resources with hundreds of calls a year. (KABC)

A small group of people are responsible for a big number of 911 calls in Los Angeles.

And the Los Angeles Fire Department is looking into ways to get them help without tying up the 911 system and other resources quite so often.

LAFD officials say those with chronic drug and alcohol problems, as well as mental-health issues, are the most frequent callers to 911.

Last year, the top 40 "super users" were responsible for about 2,000 calls to the city's 911 system, according to city data. Some of them even make hundreds of calls per year.

Dr. Marc Eckstein, medical director for the LAFD, said the department's proposed two-person SOBER Unit would respond to such calls, instead of the full paramedic crew and equipment sent to most medical emergencies. The unit would include one paramedic and one social worker.

"Instead of taking them to county hospital, sometimes twice in one day, community outreach worker then works with the individual to get them to voluntarily go to the sobering center," Eckstein said. "And the plan is to try to get them into detox and traditional housing."

A 12-month trial run of the SOBER Unit would cost about $165,000, a fraction of the millions of dollars the super users cost the city every year. If approved by the Los Angeles City Council, the SOBER Unit could be running by September.
Related Topics:
news911 calllos angeles fire departmentdrugsdrug treatmentalcoholLos AngelesLos Angeles County
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