EMS transports of homeless individuals in county inching back up, Fire Department records show

Overall statistics for October and November continue to show declines year-over-year

A chart shows the trends from November 2016 through November 2017. Image courtesy Sarasota County Fire Department

Emergency medical transports of homeless individuals have continued their year-over-year decline countywide, the latest reports from the Sarasota County Fire Department show.

However, the double-digit drops recorded in the city of Sarasota earlier in the year ceased in November 2017, according to the Fire Department report.

In November, EMS units transported 105 homeless people in response to calls, the data show. That was an 8.7% decline from the figure of 115 in November 2016.

However, in October 2017, the city experienced a drop of 41.1% year-over-year, with 93 calls reported that month compared to 158 in October 2016.

Through November 2017, the Fire Department data note, the total EMS responses in the city were 1,247; the total countywide was 1,680.

The number of calls in the unincorporated parts of the county fell 38.8% year-over-year for October, the report says — from 49 in October 2016 to 30 in October 2017. For November, the decline was 23.3%: from 30 in November 2016 to 23 in November 2017, the report notes. The county total was 360 through November 2017, the report adds.

The city of Venice actually had one more call in November 2017 than it had in the same month of 2016; however, the increase was from five to six, year-over-year. Through November, 73 EMS calls for transports of homeless people had been reported in Venice.

Conversely, the city of Venice was the location of nine responses in October 2016 but only one in October 2017, the data show.

The October 2017 data shows year-over-year drops. Image courtesy Sarasota County Fire Department

For the 13 months from November 2016 through November 2017, the highest total of calls was recorded in April, with 137 reported in the city of Sarasota, 37 in the unincorporated parts of the county and 12 in the city of Venice, the reports show. The month with the second-highest count over that same period was July 2017, when the city of Sarasota was the location of 130 EMS responses; the unincorporated parts of the county, 43; and the city of Venice, five, the data say.

Of all the calls the Fire Department received for assistance to homeless persons in October 2017, 88.7% resulted in transports, the records show. In November 2017, the figure was 89.6%.

For October 2017, the Fire Department report says EMS transports of homeless individuals comprised 2.4% of that month’s total. The report adds that the number of those EMS calls was down 42.6% year-over-year for that month.

In November 2017, the total number of EMS responses for homeless people represented 2.6% of the total the Fire Department recorded that month, the report says. As indicated by individual area comparisons, the report adds, the Fire Department recorded an overall decrease of 10.7% in those types of calls for that month.

In November 2017, the report notes, 21 individuals requested EMS services more than once, and one of those patients was transported five times while a second was transported four times.

In October 2017, 23 individuals requested EMS services more than once, the data show. One patient was transported five times that month, while a second was transported three times. Eighteen patients were transported twice in October 2017, the report says.

To obtain the data for the Fire Department, the reports explain, EMS crews take note of individuals who have no known addresses and confirm their homeless status by specifically asking the persons a question about where they reside.

Sarasota County Emergency Services Director Rich Collins. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

Richard Collins, director of emergency services for Sarasota County, distributes the monthly data to Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin. Both city and county staff members have used the information in working on strategies to decrease homelessness in the community, based on email exchanges and discussions The Sarasota News Leader has read and covered.

In a Nov. 21 email to the city commissioners, Barwin wrote, “As we approach Thanksgiving, I am thankful that homeless transports were down significantly in October of 2017 versus 2016.   We will do our best to keep this moving in the right direction as we work to get the mental health and housing needs coordinated with the greater system now being organized for maximum effectiveness and impact.”

On a related note, Sarasota County Emergency Management leaders opened cold weather shelters in both North and South county this week, with lows diving into the 30s. The shelters would be open at least through the night of Jan. 5, the county announced.

According to the National Weather Service data, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport recorded a low of 35 early on the morning of Jan. 4. With wind chill factored in, the temperature felt like 30, the service noted. The low overnight from Jan. 2 to Jan. 3 was 42, the records say, with a negligible wind chill factor.

A Jan. 4 county news release pointed out that Emergency Management staff had coordinated with the county’s municipalities, The Salvation Army and “faith-based partners” to provide the shelters “for those in need.”

The shelter locations are as follows:

North County

Shelters have been open at night in both North and South County. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

The news release says, “The Salvation Army will conduct its normal cold weather operation plan Tuesday through Friday, which includes the front porch opening at 4 p.m., with intake expected to begin at 6:30 p.m.; the front porch will re-open at 4:30 a.m. and remain open until 5 a.m., when the welcome center opens.

South County