Hoping to prod residents who frequently call 911 for nonemergency in-home assistance to seek help from other sources, Lombard trustees Thursday night approved a $50 fee for the sixth and subsequent such calls in a calendar year.
The fee will kick in for the sixth call made after Jan. 1 by anyone who receives basic life support services from the Lombard Fire Department without transportation to a hospital.
In their first meeting after choosing to split the remainder of late Village President William J. "Bill" Mueller's term between Trustees Peter Breen and Bill Ware, board members approved the new fee 5-1.
Trustee Greg Gron said he supported the fee because it could motivate family members of elderly residents or those with chronic illnesses to make sure their relative gets assistance in nonemergency situations from a source other than the fire department.
"I think if there was a charge applied, the family member responsible for the overseeing of the care might make a decision, pushed along by the fee, to look for those alternative services," Gron said. "I think that's a good idea."
In 2011, nine residents called 911 more than five times for basic life support services, such as assistance getting up from a fall or entering or exiting a vehicle, according to fire department records. One resident called 34 times and another needed assistance 17 times.
Fire Chief Paul DiRienzo said the department has been working with Aurora-based Association for Individual Development, the village's social services agency, to connect residents who repeatedly call 911 for nonemergency assistance with other resources.
Joann Furnas, director of crisis services for Association for Individual Development, said the fee might provide a financial incentive for families of those who often need in-home assistance to get their relative the help they need.
"I think it would be helpful, especially when we're dealing with some of the families that are taking it so lightly," Furnas said Thursday.
Some of those residents may be unable to pay the fee, but under the ordinance establishing it, the fire chief or finance director can waive the payment based on financial hardship.
"I'm assuming the fee is used to discourage abuse of the calls," said Trustee Zachary Wilson, who voted against the fee. "Is there going to be a time when the fee discourages a call that really is needed? That's my concern."
DiRienzo and Furnas said they doubt the fee would prevent the residents who most often need help around their homes from calling.
"I think this could lead to a better lifestyle in the long run," DiRienzo said.