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Valerie O’Halloran Honored for FD CARES Efforts

Valerie O’Halloran Honored for FD CARES Efforts

During the April 8, 2024, Renton RFA Governance Board meeting, Board Member Valerie O’Halloran was honored for her exceptional fundraising and awareness efforts regarding the Fire Department Community Assistance, Referrals, and Education Services (FDCARES) program. Board Member O’Halloran believed in the value of the FDCARES program long before it came to fruition as a service adopted by Renton RFA several years ago. She has worked diligently throughout the years to support it, raise awareness about it, and even help fund it through her tremendous efforts.

In 2023, she notably used her own birthday celebration to steer those looking to present her with a gift to instead donate to the Renton RFA FDCARES Fund run by the Renton Regional Community Foundation. That request alone brought in thousands of dollars for the program. It’s important to understand the big impact these donations have on the health and safety of our community.

The FDCARES program is known for addressing low-acuity calls for service. The program is composed of two specialized roles: a nurse and a social worker. Combined, these two roles create an expert team designed to provide community members who have chronic or ongoing concerns with the help and care they need to live longer, happier, healthier lives. Low-acuity calls are generally those that are important but non-emergent in nature. They require a deeper level of care than an emergent visit can provide. That is where the FDCARES team really shines.

The FDCARES team can act both proactively and reactively. When our crews discover a patient with a chronic or ongoing need, they call in the FDCARES team to meet with the patient and provide a deeper level of care. The nurse and social worker combination is perfect for this task. FDCARES nurses can provide evaluations and services beyond what firefighters are able to provide, and FDCARES social workers can connect patients with the social services and resources they need to improve their circumstances.

A good example of this team at work would be with patients who consistently require lift assists in order to attend mandatory medical appointments because they live on the upper floor of a multi-level building. FDCARES can be called upon to proactively help with lift assists so that patients no longer have to rely on calling 9-1-1 for this service. In addition, FDCARES works with patients to find resources for living conditions that allow them to reside on a bottom floor or single-story building, providing easier access to their transport to and from medical appointments. This not only alleviates a non-emergent patient having to rely on the 9-1-1 system for basic care but also provides a level of support that improves the patient’s overall quality of life.

The donations made and encouraged by Board Member O’Halloran continue to play a critical role in the FDCARES program. The funds have been used to purchase resources and equipment that make the work of the FDCARES team safer, more efficient, and more effective. For example, Board Member O’Halloran’s contributions, in combination with donations by Renton Rotary, made it possible for FDCARES to buy a much-needed stair chair in 2023—a critical piece of equipment that makes it safer both for the FDCARES team and for patients to be transported up and down stairs smoothly.

The new FDCARES team stationed at Fire Station 52 alongside Renton RFA Deputy Chief Dan Alexander.

The program has been so well supported and well received that we were able to launch a second FDCARES unit, in partnership with Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority, housed out of fire station 52 in Tukwila. Advancements in this program and support of the tools and resources necessary to make it effective and impactful for our most vulnerable community members have been made possible by Board Member O’Halloran and generous individuals like her. We want to extend our sincere gratitude to both our partner agency in the program, Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority, for joining us and honoring Board Member O’Halloran for her incredible work, as well as to Valerie directly for the amazing efforts she has made and continues to make to help us keep the Renton community safer, healthier, and stronger.