Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Board member Brandon Schmitt asks if the CARES program is helping to reduce repeat 911 callers. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Board member Brandon Schmitt asks if the CARES program is helping to reduce repeat 911 callers. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
The CARES program is still in its early stages, but it’s already showing signs of helping to reduce the number of calls to 911 by repeat callers.

CARES - Community Assistance Resources & Emergency Services - is a program that addresses those suffering a mental health crisis, assists those who are having issues acquiring or reconciling medications and aid in getting appropriate medical care, according to the city of Warsaw website. Continual services also are provided for home safety assessments, emergency housing needs assistance, uninjured fall assistance, general health assessments and resources allocation for residents.

During his monthly report, Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Chief Garrett Holderman told the Territory Board that in June the CARES calls jumped up to 56 from 20 the month before.

“Having (CARES Coordinator) Mikaela (Bixler) here - she’s ramping the program up, she’s making follow-ups, she is doing a fantastic job. Mikaela is doing a great job and the CARES program is going really, really well,” Holderman said.

Territory Board member Brandon Schmitt later asked, “On the CARES calls, have you noticed a direct impact yet on 911? For example, having somebody who would call 911 maybe on a daily basis, have you seen it curve any of those at all to where we’re not sending a truck with red lights and sirens to an address for (third) day in a row?”

Holderman said yes, and no.

“There’s certain things that people just call 911 for, but Mikaela is very, very good about following up after initial exposure with said person. She’ll follow up. It’s already on the calendar. You can hear her all day on the radio making those calls. So those are potential 911 calls that we’re not getting because she’s making those follow-ups very regularly,” Holderman said.

Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer asked EMS Chief Chris Fancil to comment on that because “I know that’s been the whole focus of this program. We’re early, kind of feeling our way through this, but you make a great point - that’s the whole focus here, is to try to provide that alternative so we’re not over-utilizing our services.”

Fancil said Bixler is making a lot of follow-up calls and is proactively making contact with those people to make sure they have whatever resources they need so they won’t call. She has several people she visits a couple times a week for “whatever” reason.

“We have one young lady we’re trying to get into some substance counseling, that’s a  little bit of a struggle with her. She was calling daily. She has not called in the past couple weeks. So, yes, we are seeing a lot of that go away,” Fancil said. “We still have one gentleman who, I believe, at one point in 17 days he called 911 over 50 times. And Bowen (Center) is involved in his situation. He loves Bowen, but then it becomes a question of what will he allow us to do to help him fix the situation.”

Fancil said a lot of times they’re limited by what people are allowed to do, but they’re seeing a lot of that repeat calling to 911 drop off.

“It’s never going to be perfect. You’re still going to have people who have no other outlet, no other resource and so they pick that phone up and call 911, but I think we’re seeing positive results on that. It’s doing kind of what we anticipated, but at the same time, Mikaela has taken the approach, and we’ve really supported this, of being pro-active instead of reactive,” Fancil said.

He said they’re learning as they go as they’re still new at this. He and Bixler have conversations daily on how certain things should play and what they should look like. They’ve involved Bowen Center and Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton in those conversations about different situations.

“I think it’s going very well. Again, still learning. Still trying to figure it out. I think a lot of communities, more and more communities, are adopting something similar to this. But in every community, you have to figure out where you fit. Where that puzzle comes together. What piece you have to play to make it work,” he said.

Lutheran Health Network is getting ready to start its Mobile Integrated Health Program, Fancil said, which got certified the same time WWFT did but the two programs look completely different than each other.

He said they’ve had conversations with Lutheran, too.

Thallemer told Schmitt he really liked his question because “that’s the crux of where we’re at with this. As Chris said, we see in other communities how does it work and every community is different. Every community has different needs and we’re still learning, we’re still trying to figure this out.”

He said he was pleased with the way it’s going, but it’s just a start.

“We can’t provide all of these ancillary services to everybody that’s got a concern, but we can certainly elevate those that have an acute concern and that’s really what this is about,” Thallemer said.

Schmitt said he was super thankful for the CARES program. At first, he admitted, he was a little skeptical not knowing exactly it would entail, but from what he’s hearing, it’s helping the residents as well as the people on the other end in the ambulances and fire trucks to not have to go again and again to the same call. Those kind of things can contribute to the burn-out rate, so if the CARES program can help with that, Schmitt said that’s great to hear.

“I’m glad that Mikaela is doing well,” he said.

Fancil said Bixler has been a great addition to the program. “I can’t speak highly enough of what she’s doing. She is great,” he said, adding that she’s helping people and has a huge heart.

Thallemer said they’ve been working for two to three years to get the program going. Holderman was supportive of it when he first came on board earlier this year, and Fancil has been working hard to get it off the ground, he said. Now having the proper individual - Bixler - in place puts the program in place to have an impact “and I think we are.”