Community Paramedicine is a fairly new concept, but one that has quickly become an effective strategy for healthcare and emergency services. These programs address a range of public health issues, from primary care and chronic disease management to care coordination and prevention.
Community Paramedics are uniquely qualified and trained to provide specialized services out in the field and in patients’ homes, preventing costly emergencies and unnecessary 911 calls. They assess patients, draw blood, give immunizations, assist with medication administration, provide wound care, and create a vital communication link between primary care physicians and their patients. Community paramedicine programs are also making a crucial contribution to the rising mental health and addiction crises.
When it comes to addiction response, community paramedics are trained to provide various harm reduction services, such as medication-assisted treatment, psychosocial support, referrals to community resources, and crisis intervention. They can also provide education to individuals and families about the dangers of substance use and help connect individuals to appropriate community-based services such as treatment, housing and employment services, and support groups.
Through these efforts, community paramedics become a trusted source in the community for individuals struggling with addiction and their families. People know where to go when they are ready to seek treatment or have a loved one in need of support, without the fear of incarceration.
Community paramedics are also positioned to help patients experiencing mental illness. They are trained to identify stressors, provide education and assessments, inform primary care providers, and refer services as needed. Additionally, they have the tools to provide immediate interventions such as crisis response and emotional support.
Community paramedicine programs not only benefit patients with each visit, but they also increase efficiency in healthcare, reduce unnecessary visits to emergency rooms, and lower costs for hospitals, health systems, payers, and emergency medical services. Furthermore, these programs help remove transportation, geographic, and financial barriers and improve access to care, ultimately leading to better overall health outcomes.
Community paramedicine might be a newly emerged field of healthcare, but the benefits are clear. For those looking to get started, Will Mueller, Assistant Fire Chief in Colerain Township, Ohio, offers the following advice from his experience with a successful community paramedicine program.
“When we first stepped out to do this, we had no model to work from and were starting everything from scratch. It involved new partnerships, new policy development, and venturing into a new realm of cultural change and education that we had never done before. My piece of advice is don’t be afraid of barriers, and if you do, understand that those barriers can be moved, and you can detour around them. My other piece of advice is to have patience with cultural change. The success of a program over time will sell that program. My last piece of advice, if you do not know how to get started, is to start by having a conversation. You’d be surprised what you can learn when you just sit across the table from somebody and have a conversation.”