MESA, AZ - For the past six months, nurse practitioner Tom Morris has been part of the Mesa Fire Department.
Morris joined as part of a trial program where he and Mesa Fire Captain Brent Burgett respond to 911 calls that are deemed "low level" or "non life-threatening" in place of a full engine response. Their ambulance is like a mobile urgent care unit.
"We see sprains and back problems and a lot of the flu and respiratory complaints right now," Morris said. "Some calls are better treated at home or at an urgent care than at a hospital."
Morris and Burgett explained that the program is not meant to be an alternative to going to an urgent care clinic or a doctor, and calling 911 should still be seen as for emergencies only.
However, they recognize that when people are in trouble and don't know what to do, they often call 911 and do need help.
"It is also about educating them," said Burgett. Burgett explained that often they are able to help connect people with resources to get them help faster as well as educating them about resources they can use in the future to avoid having to make a "low level 911 call."
Right now, they are the only team in the department handling these types of calls. They are hoping to see the program expanded.