By Leslie Hynes, Snohomish County Fire District 1 Public Information Officer.
Snohomish County Fire District 1 and the Lynnwood Fire Department are teaming up to expand community paramedic service in south Snohomish County by creating the South Snohomish County Community Resource Paramedic Task Force.
The Verdant Health Commission is providing a grant of more than $1 million to fund the regional program for the next three years.
“This partnership with Verdant and the Lynnwood Fire Department will strengthen and expand community paramedic service to reach more of our most vulnerable citizens,” said Fire District Chief Ed Widdis.
Lynnwood Fire Chief Scott Cockrum added, “Working together creates efficiencies and opportunities for this program to have a greater impact in the communities we serve.”
Captain Shaughn Maxwell, head of Fire District 1’s Emergency Medical Services Division, describes the community paramedic program as "a health-care early-warning system." He explained, “Our emergency responders are in a position to know that someone needs help before anyone else. Many of these patients end up being frequent 911 callers and are referred by firefighters to the community paramedic for follow-up services. Through our community paramedic program, they can connect these patients to the health and social service they need."
Fire District 1 and Lynnwood Fire Department initiated separate community paramedic programs over the last two years. Verdant supported both efforts with grant funding.
“This new grant will bring together the most impactful activities of both programs,” Captain Maxwell said.
Fire District 1 and Lynnwood Fire Department have created the South Snohomish County Community Resource Paramedic Task Force to deliver services using Fire District 1’s program model. The task force includes one community paramedic from each agency: Shane Cooper from Fire District 1 and Dan Grantier from the Lynnwood Fire Department.
Joining them is Fire District 1’s community resource specialist, Kristen Thorstenson, who focuses primarily on falls, a top reason for program referrals.
The Verdant grant will also fund a part-time administrative assistant to enter data, run reports and build files so the rest of the team can spend more time in the field working with patients.
Captain Maxwell commented, “We’ve already seen the community paramedic can be a strong tool to enhance patient care and reduce health care costs, and we want to build on that.”
In 2014, patients in Fire District 1’s community paramedic program saw a 36 percent reduction in 911 calls and a nearly 12 percent reduction in emergency room visits.
For the first half of 2015, 911 calls were reduced by more than 50 percent and emergency room visits were reduced by 43.2 percent for patients receiving community paramedic services.
"We learned a lot in our first year and now have built relationships with community partners so we're better at connecting patients with the help they need," said Captain Maxwell.
About a third of community paramedic patients surveyed had been trying to connect with community services for at least six months prior to their involvement in the program. "These are patients who would otherwise remain invisible to other health and social service systems that could help them. I like to say this program makes the invisible people visible in our community," Captain Maxwell commented.