SEQUIM — Paramedics and firefighters with Clallam County Fire District 3 continue to work with a frequent caller and a few other Sequim-area residents for abusing 9-1-1 for non-emergency incidents.
Assistant Fire Chief Dan Orr said in a phone interview that one unnamed man who lives in the 1000 block of Old Olympic Highway has called for aid assistance about 140 times since January for non-emergency reasons.
“It’s gotten worse; he called that much for all of 2020,” Orr said.
He said the man has been a persistent caller for more than two years about issues, such as needing help out of bed or to have his catheter emptied.
Orr said the man is “of sound mind” and appears he doesn’t want to spend money for home health care, but he was admitted Sunday to Sequim Health and Rehabilitation with help from Capt. Derrell Sharp, the fire department’s medical safety officer.
“Derrell has gone above and beyond,” Orr said. “He has a good knack for creating relationships and having those discussions and laying out options.”
A few days prior, on May 4 at the fire commissioners’ board meeting, District 3 Fire Chief Ben Andrews gave a chief’s coin to Sharp for his ongoing assistance with the man.
“His unique talents led him to be successful in this,” Andrews said.
Fire commissioner Steve Chinn said he overheard a conversation between Sharp and the man and felt Sharp “empowered and helped him realize he had some control in his life.”
Orr said the man’s calls became so frequent that the fire district hired a collections agency for the first time after sending several letters indicating he’d be charged a fee for every call.
Andrews said the balance is about $11,000 and the man is making an effort to pay it off with more than half paid as of May 4. A payment plan is being established for him.
Orr said Sharp has been working with the man to find additional financial assistance for medical care.
He said it’s not uncommon for frequent calls to come from one address for short spurts. It can happen when a person becomes ill and his/her partner is unsure how to handle it until they establish care at home or in a facility with trained professionals.
Fire District 3 covers the east side of Clallam County with a small portion in Jefferson County.
April saw a large jump in calls compared with last year, Andrews reported to fire commissioners, but he said he’s not alarmed.
He reports the fire district received 729 calls in April compared with 530 in 2020 and 656 in 2019.
Andrews said the increase could be attributed to 9-1-1 being abused more and/or numbers going back to normal, pre-COVID-19.
Calls for service declined in eight months of 2020 (January to May, July, August and October) compared with 2019.
Orr said this year’s numbers will be more comparable to 2019 as more restrictions are lifted.
He added that, with the booming housing market, Sequim’s demographic appears to be aging as more older residents move to the area and potentially need emergency aid.
For more information about Clallam County Fire District 3, call 360-683-4242 or visit ccfd3.org.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].