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Safety patrol goes 24/7 with new funds

By Matthew F. Smith 12:57 PM November 21, 2013

Assembly earmark of $515,000 brings new vans, more shifts for public safety program

ANCHORAGE – In passing a $467 million budget, the Anchorage Assembly earmarked more than half a million dollars for a program aimed at helping some of the city’s most vulnerable.

For almost two decades, the Anchorage Safety Patrol (ASP) received about $200,000 in funding from the Southcentral Foundation. Like many entities and programs receiving federal funds, however, ongoing sequestration cuts in Congress mean that funding simply won’t be there in the future.

That’s why the Anchorage Assembly gave $515,000 to the ASP program, giving it enough money to buy two new fans and fill six new shifts, ensuring at least one van is on the streets 24 hours a day year-round.

On Wednesday, ASP medic Krystie Stevenson and driver Pam Garner worked the morning shift — 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. — a shift that, until a month ago, was unstaffed.

“About a month and a half ago, our first van came on the road about two o’clock [in the afternoon],” Stevenson said. “By that time our vans came on we’d have about 15 calls to respond to.”

Anticipating the new funding, the safety patrol was able to staff the shift for the past month, marking the first time the program has been able to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “Now that we’re 24 hours, it’s a lot easier to manage our calls,” Stevenson said.

The women answered three calls on Wednesday — “a slow morning,” Garner said, who usually sees about ten calls — and had to break up a fight between two clients before bringing them back to the city’s Safety Center.

”It all that kind of rolls into one big necessity, what we’re doing,” Stevenson said. “It’s really a borderline job we’re doing. We’re medics, we’re partially security, and then partially a really low subdivide of [police] and [firefighters].”

Dropping their patients at the Safety Center means police, ambulance EMTs, and firefighters can focus on more important calls. With Anchorage police handling about 30 percent of admissions to the Safety Center, funding for new vans and more staff means those numbers should drop, freeing up other responders and resources.

”It doesn’t take up the jail, and it doesn’t take up the hospital, but there’s somewhere where medical people can watch over them until they’re OK to go on their own,” Stevenson said.

The funding will keep the Anchorage Safety Patrol on patrol — all day, every day — taking care of the people who can’t take care of themselves.

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