City expands Health One program to Ballard for behavioral health crises and non-emergency complaints

A second Health One unit has been launched in Seattle, adding Ballard and the University District to its primary service areas.

Health One is the Seattle Fire Department’s Mobile Integrated Health response unit which specializes in outreach and transport. Along with referrals from callers with non-emergency complaints and behavioral health crises.

The second unit began operations last week with a staffed team of two specially trained/EMTs and a manager from the Human Services Department Aging and Disability Services Division.

“The expansion of Health One to Ballard will bring the right first responders to many 911 calls in our community,” Councilmember Dan Strauss said about the expansion. “When Health One is not available we respond with a Fire Engine, a Medic One, a Police Officer, an AMR, and a short stay in the Emergency Room without meaningfully addressing why 911 was called in the first place.”

Seattle Fire Department used to receive “low acuity” calls related to social service needs which included homelessness, mental health, and drug or alcohol usage. These calls generally did not require action or were non-emergency. In the Nov. 2019 launch, 56 percent of people served with Health One Clinic were experiencing homelessness.  

“Health One creates lasting solutions for the people they respond to because the two firefighters and case manager triage the individual and connect them with the resources they need to remain stabilized after the 911 response,” Strauss said. “Health One creates efficiencies in our 911 response system and reduces the number of 911 calls placed because they provide upstream solutions.”

Additionally, the program includes connections with behavioral health organizations and referrals to city contracted homeless outreach providers and shelters. 

“Members staffing these units have received specialized training and always respond with patience and compassion when interacting with clients. We look forward to launching our second unit into service and expanding our primary service area,” Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said.   

The first unit includes the downtown and Capitol Hill to deploy city-wide. The second unit will be located at Fire Station 2 in Belltown to reach clients in South Seattle and SODO neighborhoods. It will operate from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

“Seattle has pioneered community safety initiatives like Health One. As we continue to reimagine public safety, we will expand civilian public safety alternatives like Health One that sends a firefighter and social worker to a 9-1-1 call. This next year, we will continue to scale Health One to neighborhoods across Seattle,” Mayor Durkan said. 

Photo: SFD’s Health One vehicle (SFD on Facebook)

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