EMS Rainey St. pilot program – how did it go?

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With the Austin Marathon coming up next weekend and South by Southwest (SXSW) just a month away, KXAN checked in to see if a downtown public safety pilot program is working.

It’s an Austin-Travis County EMS (ATCEMS) program that involves staging two medics at the south end of Rainey Street near Lady Bird Lake in special response units, which are live ATVs.

The goals of the program were to respond quickly to any medical emergencies on the difficult-to-drive-through street and address any issues related to over-intoxication – including keeping drunk people away from the water.

Assistant Chief Wesley Hopkins said since the program launched in June 2023, medics have stopped three “highly intoxicated” individuals from getting too close to the water, as well as helped a group of people find a missing friend.

“You see the calls you would see in any kind of entertainment district, you get a lot of people who were highly intoxicated,” he said, while summing up the program.

He said having medics downtown also helps keep ambulances more available in other parts of town because trucks can often get tied up longer downtown because it’s a difficult area to drive through.

Hopkins said the current goal is creating “an actual downtown area command much like the Austin Police Department has been doing for many years.”

ATCEMS said the next steps toward making this a permanent program includes requesting funding from the city.

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