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Alcohol Cases Significantly Tax EMS Systems

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Chris Colwell, MD, and Kevin McVaney, MD, of the Denver Health Paramedic Division addressed the Eagles regarding the enormous alcohol-related cases they face in the Denver EMS System. They are attempting to address this large system-wide problem.

Denver EMS units answer 85,000 calls annually. Many of their responses involve patients with alcohol use and abuse.

To address the scope of this EMS System abuse area in a special study, Denver crews charted yes/no whether the call was alcohol-related or whether their patients had consumed alcohol.

Some of their findings included:

  • 31% were all 9-1-1 dispatches to EMS were alcohol related
  • 56% of all immobilized patients were under the influence of alcohol
  • Geographically, alcohol calls were clustered and centered around specific streets

Denver instituted a program called CARES (Comprehensive Addictions Rehabilitation and Evaluation Services) that uses a vehicle to get individuals in need to DETOX centers.

Denver CARES is a 100-bed, non-medical, clinically managed treatment facility whose mission is to provide a safe detoxification for public inebriates, and to provide assessment, education, motivational counseling and residential treatment. It operates 24/7, with a staff of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, behavioral health technicians and addiction counselors. Licensed clinical social workers are also available through Denver Health Medical Center. Clients completing residential treatment are referred to outpatient and aftercare services.

Residential Treatment for Veterans
Denver CARES also runs a 14-bed transitional residential treatment program specifically designed for chronically homeless veterans.

The length of stay is typically up to six months. In addition to the standard residential treatment services, veterans receive veteran-specific referrals and specialized case management from the VA Medical Center’s Health Care for Homeless Veterans team.

The three special Denver CARES vans, staffed by two Denver Health EMTS, transport more than 10,000 individuals to DETOX annually to help curb this system taxer and get those individuals focused care and attention.

The estimated impact of this problem on the EMS and hospital system is enormous.  There are 40,000 patients annually that enter the system, many on multiple occasions.

McVaney reported that EMS system administrators have calculated that, without the Denver CARES program in place, the EMS system/resources would be required to assist and transport an addition 12,750 transports.

For more on this innovative program, see: www.denverhealth.org/MedicalServices/MentalHealth/OurServices/DenverCARES.aspx

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