The Pulse
4:03 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

No Funding Yet for Pilot to Divert "Frequent Fliers" From ER

Perhaps you remember hearing or reading about a plan to divert so-called "frequent fliers" - meaning frequently intoxicated emergency room users - from ERs to some kind of sobering center?

A proposal was afloat in the General Assembly (a special Senate committee, to be exact) to pilot such a center. And to-date, it hasn't been able to secure any funding. It's been in the works for many months. Funny thing is that such a pilot might actually save several entities money down the road, but it's apparently been difficult to get any one of those entities to invest money up front.

Funny thing is that such a pilot might actually save several entities money down the road, but it's apparently been difficult to get any one of those entities to invest money up front.
Providence emergency rescue units
Providence emergency rescue units
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

I reported on that conundrum as well as how frequent fliers strain resources earlier this year. The story is just as much about how hospital emergency departments maybe aren't the best place for them to sober up and get connected to services that might help them stay that way. And I followed that story up with a report about a program in Cambridge, MA that's using just such a sobering center and seeing some results.

I spoke to committee co-chair Sen. Paul Jabour this week, and he told me that they've been unable to find funding for such a pilot and the outlook isn't great - given the state's budget shortfall. They've extended the committee's deadline through June, however. And Jabour says the next step is to issue a request for information from organizations that might run such a sobering center. That should help fill in more details about what a pilot might cost. With that information, they might be able to issue a request for proposals. But whether the funding will materialize for the winning proposal remains to be seen.