UTICA, NY (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente announced the launch of a new program to make its 911 calls more efficient on Monday, June 5.

The Nurse Navigation Program — which will go live on Tuesday, June 6 – will divert non-emergency calls to licensed nurses around the county. Nurse Navigators – who are New York State licensed nurses – will also be able to connect callers with telehealth physicians who can provide care and prescribe medication as needed.

“This innovative new program will provide residents with a variety of options for quickly reaching the appropriate level of medical care when calling 911,” Picente said in a statement. “This will filter out non-emergency calls from our 911 system and allow our dispatchers to more efficiently cater to the needs of those in dire situations. In turn, it will also help to free up the emergency rooms of our local healthcare systems and ambulance corps from being overburdened with patients who do not require the level of care they provide.” 

Almost 4,000 of the approximately 24,000 calls handled by Oneida County dispatchers last year were considered non-emergency situations. With the new system — administered by Texas-based business Global Medical Response — dispatchers will assess callers’ situations and navigate them to the appropriate service. Nurses can also arrange ride-sharing services to assist any callers without transportation.

Oneida County residents should see no change when calling 911 for life-threatening emergencies. An ambulance will still be dispatched in urgent or life-threatening emergencies.

The Nurse Navigation service does not require callers to have medical insurance for access to the Nurse Navigation program.

“This project is the culmination of the continuous planning process conducted by Emergency Services in an attempt to increase the efficiency of the services we provide to the community,” said, Oneida County Director of Emergency Services Edward Stevens said in a statement. “The planning process for this project intensified partially as a result of what was observed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the ongoing efforts to address the needs of EMS services in the county.  Hospital space as well as ambulance availability was strained and pushed to the limits resulting in diversions and long waits by EMS personnel. This program will help divert individuals seeking assistance to the most appropriate service while allowing the EMS and hospital personnel to remain available to tend to the most serious issues. I would like to thank the staff here at the Emergency Services Department as well as those from American Medical Response and the County Executive for all of their work to bring this program to Oneida County.”