Farmington fire, police pilot program for down subject calls

The program aims to reduce number of personnel, units required

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
Farmington Fire Department Station One Capt. Mike Stahl, left, and Farmington Police Department District Coordinator Ofc. Kris Chavez, right, attend to a down subject, Thursday off East Main Street Farmington.
  • The Alternative Response Unit is a firefighter with EMT training and a police officer are paired together to respond to down subject calls.
  • The ARU focuses on the firefighter performing a medical assessment to figure the needs of the person.
  • Down subject calls accounted for about 29 percent of the calls for service for Farmington fire from October 2017 to May 2018.

FARMINGTON — The Farmington Fire and Police departments are piloting a new program to free up resources by efficiently responding to reported down subject calls which might require medical assistance.

The Alternative Response Unit is a program where a firefighter with EMT training and a police officer are paired together and respond to down subject calls, according to Farmington police Sgt. Roque Velarde.

Velarde said a down subject call occurs when the member of the public who calls dispatch is not willing or is unable to approach the unresponsive person. He added usually there is no information on the unresponsive person's medical status.

This type of call involves an officer being dispatched to the scene along with an EMS unit with two paramedics and a fire unit with three personnel aboard to determine if medical treatment is needed.

The ARU is aimed at reducing the number of personnel and units required to respond to such calls, according to Farmington Fire Department Capt. Brandon Heard.

Farmington Fire Department Station One Capt. Mike Stahl talks with an inebriated subject Thursday on East Main Street in Farmington.

"We recognize this as an option to increase our efficiency and still provide resources for the community by leaving other resources available for calls for service," Heard said.

The ARU focuses on the firefighter performing a medical assessment to figure the needs of the person.

The firefighter uses equipment provided by the San Juan Regional Medical Center ambulance service.

The unit then determines how to proceed, including calling an ambulance if needed or transporting the person to the Sobering Center, Velarde said.

Velarde said, based upon his experience, many of these calls tend to involve an intoxicated subject.

A breath alcohol concentration, BrAC, shows a reading or .403 on Thursday after a breathalyzer test was conducted on an inebriated subject in Farmington.

"We wouldn't want to ignore a potential medical emergency by assuming it's an intoxicated person," Velarde said.

Down subject calls accounted for about 29 percent of the calls for service for Farmington Fire from October 2017 to May 2018, according to Velarde.

In the same time frame, down subject calls accounted for about 3 percent of Farmington Police's calls for service.

Farmington Police District Coordinator Ofc. Kris Chavez, top left, and Farmington Fire Department Station One Capt. Mike Stahl attempt to wake up a down subject Thursday off East Main Street in Farmington.

The unit operates Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. as part of the pilot.

Heard said that is when Farmington fire personnel are the busiest in terms of down subject calls.

Preliminary information from the first full month of operation shows the unit contacted an average of 30 people per day, Heard said. The program started on July 11.

Kris Chavez, a district coordinator officer with Farmington Police Department, drops off an inebriated subject Thursday at the Sobering Center in Farmington.

About 22 of those 30 people contacted were fine and did not require service.

About four to five people were transported to the Sobering Center and one person on average was transported to the San Juan County Adult Detention Center.

The pilot program is set to run for a year until the end of June 2019.

Farmington police and fire plan to examine the data and figure out where to go with the program, Velarde said.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

Farmington Fire Department Station One Capt. Mike Stahll and Farmington Police Department District Coordinator Ofc. Kris Chavez prepare to transport an inebriated person to the Sobering Center Thursday shortly after making contact with the individual at the Shell gas station off West Apache Street in Farmington.