Calling 911 may cost you even if you don't go to the hospital

Calling 911 may cost you even if you don't go to the hospital
KITTITAS COUNTY, Wash. -- Too many calls to help drunk people could mean a change for ambulance crews. Bills may be handed out if the patient isn't taken to the hospital.

Money and resources are running dry for Kittitas Fire - while the alcohol is flowing.

This often results in a 911 call for someone who's drank too much or overdosed on drugs.

The response from EMS crews can tie up paramedics and slush through your taxpayers dollars.

The new solution: charge people who call 911 and don't get taken to the hospital.

"There are some fire departments that actually charge every time they go out the door for an ambulance call regardless of whether they transport or not. We don't," said Richard Elliott, deputy fire chief.

Right now, Kittitas doesn't charge for the EMS visit unless you go to the hospital.

This change would bring a $250 bill for help from a medical team that doesn't leave with a patient. It would be focused on instances of illegal substance abuse.

The proposal has CWU students concerned.

"911 is supposed to be if there is an emergency and you can't handle it yourself," said student Autumn Williams.

This college freshman worries that someone will get stuck with a bill through no fault of their own.

Kittitas Fire doesn't want to dissuade people from reporting an emergency. They just want to limit frivolous calls.

"They impact the system and they cost the community money," Elliott said.

If the proposal isn't approved the department will look at other options. Keeping everything the same doesn't appear to be an option.

The stats have been steady for three years. Fewer than half of calls to fire crews end up with someone taken to the hospital and many are linked to alcohol or drug use.

A final decision on the proposal could be make in a few weeks.