STANTON — Montcalm County Emergency Services has been awarded a $22,273 federal grant, which will be used for a new community paramedic training program.
The funds come from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, which awards grants to fire departments and emergency medical services organizations to enhance their ability to protect the health and safety of the public, as well as that of first responder personnel. Grants are awarded through a competitive process to applicants whose requests best address the priorities of the grant program.
“We hope that this grant will allow us to advance the education and level of training of our ALS staff to improve and expand our ability to serve the residents of the county while keeping current with the trends in healthcare,” said Montcalm County Emergency Medical Services Director David Feldpausch.
Montcalm County EMS responded to 7,404 calls in 2013 and has seen a 4 percent volume increase over the past two years. This combined with a 50 percent increase in patient collections demonstrates the community’s need for care, but the financial difficulties in locating it, according to EMS Field Supervisor Brandon Mulnix.
“Our care providers find citizens going without the care they need and by the time they seek care, their condition is severe enough that they have to rely on the ambulance and the emergency room to act as their primary care,” Mulnix said. “This not only taxes the EMS system in the county, but also burdens the small, rural hospitals.”
Mulnix said a solution to the ever-increasing demand for local emergency care is the development of a community paramedic program to help nonemergent people get the care they need.
“This buffer of care provided by community paramedics can reduce the number of readmissions to the emergency room,” he said. “Follow up care can help prevent patients from not filling their prescriptions, or not following through in contacting a primary care physician. The frequent 911 callers will have a resource for help other than calling 911.”
To provide for this resource, Mulnix said additional training is needed, which is where the federal grant funds come in. The grant will pay for necessary instruction to upgrade all current paramedics to be able to also serve as community paramedics, including instruction, instructor travel and resource materials. Training will likely include specialized training in post surgical care, wound care, pediatric care, advanced medical devices (vents, LVADs, central lines, feeding tubes, etc.), pharmacology and other topics that could help keep residents home rather than readmitted.
Implementation will begin with the additional training of staff, and will also include Medical Control Authority protocols to govern the practice of the community paramedic. The final piece will be informing physicians with patients in the area of the capabilities and services available to their patients as a resource.
“Funding this sustainable project will allow MCES to protect our citizen’s longterm health, as well as protect our emergency systems from unnecessary misuse, which frees up the care providers to focus on the most urgent needs,” Mulnix said. “Our citizens endure the same medical issues as everywhere else, but do not have the same level of access as the metro areas do. The additional training the project would provide will allow home visits and follow up for those citizens, rather than make them attempt to get to a metro area or, worse yet, go without the follow up ensuring their health and wellbeing and preventing readmissions.
“Residents, who become dependent on ambulance transport to the emergency room for every need, will have community paramedics available to help them solve problems before they need an ambulance. This would in turn make the ambulances available for responding to true emergencies, rather than be utilized for transportation to the hospital for those who could be served by community paramedics. The hospitals in the community, two of which are rural critical access hospitals, would find some relief from the volume of patients, especially the readmission patients who could be served by community paramedics.
“Community paramedics can be used in our schools where school nurses are no longer affordable options,” he added. “In Montcalm County, there are seven school districts and five of them are struggling to meet the needs of students with health care needs. Care plans and daily medical assistance needs can be provided by a community paramedic.”
U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, both Democrats from Michigan, announced the grant funding.
“I am pleased that Montcalm County is receiving this critical funding that will go a long way toward training and equipping first responders with the tools needed to keep our communities safe,” Peters said. “Through this funding, Montcalm County will be better prepared to respond to fire and other emergency hazards, and this is another step towards making our neighborhoods safer places to grow up and raise a family.”
“Our emergency responders put their lives on the line every day to keep our families, homes, and communities safe,” Stabenow said. “These new resources will help Montcalm County Emergency Services buy the equipment they need to safely protect their community.”