Hospitals provide funds for Community Paramedicine program

Lexington’s main hospitals will provide $200,000 to keep Lexington’s Community Paramedicine Program open in 2020, Mayor Linda Gorton announced at a news conference today.

“We are very thankful that our hospitals … UK HealthCare, CHI Saint Joseph Health and Baptist Health Lexington … are pulling together to help us keep our Community Paramedicine service in operation,” Gorton said. “It is an outstanding program. As a registered nurse, I understand how important it is. Community Paramedicine is a win for everyone, especially citizens, whose quality of life is often improved.”

Representing the hospitals at Monday’s announcement were Dan Goulson, CHI Saint Joseph Health market chief medical officer, and Missy Hicks, Director of Emergency Department marketing; Colleen Swartz, Vice President of Hospital Operations at UK HealthCare; and Karen Hill, Chief Operations Officer at Baptist Health Lexington.

The Community Paramedicine program enables firefighters to take a more comprehensive approach to the care of patients who have a high dependence on E-911, offering a new level of care. Emergency run data shows some citizens call 9-1-1 frequently for help with chronic, non-emergency problems, like mobility. Community Paramedicine works to get at the root of those problems and find permanent solutions.

Lexington’s Community Paramedicine program started in 2017 and continued through 2018, funded by a grant. A tight City budget in 2019 meant Mayor Gorton was only able to fund the program for six months. The three hospitals are together providing $200,000 to fund the program in 2020.

Fire Chief Kristin Chilton said Community Paramedicine saves precious resources. “Community Paramedicine is changing the way we provide healthcare in Lexington, and the benefits of the program are shared by both the patients and providers alike,” Chilton said. “We have already experienced a 6.5% decrease in EMS runs. This number is significant all by itself, but it is especially impressive when you consider that our EMS numbers have historically increased by 8-9% each year. Prior to the start of this program we anticipated needing to add a new ambulance to our fleet every two years in order to keep pace with patient demand.  Now, after just two short years of the Community Paramedicine program being operational, there has been a 15.5% swing in EMS responses, which has reduced our need to add ambulances to our fleet ... a tremendous achievement!”

A Community Paramedicine Program can simply be defined as using traditional EMS resources in a non-traditional manner to meet the dynamic needs of the community, Chilton said. “Our firefighters use this program to navigate the needs of our most vulnerable residents, so that they don’t feel like an ambulance is their only option for non-emergent medical issues,” she said. “Through home visits, education, and individual assessments we are helping patients get the help they need for the best overall outcome, and not just a short-term solution. This translates into fewer patients in hospital emergency rooms, and fewer re-admits after a patient is discharged.”

Fire Battalion Chief Chad Traylor runs the Community Paramedicine program. The Unit includes a police detective, Chris Darmadji, who provides security and law enforcement authority for team operations. Detective Darmadji is trained in crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, and can initiate Emergency Detentions when necessary for the safety of the client.

            “Community Paramedicine is an important new service, and we greatly appreciate our hospitals for their support,” Gorton said. “Working together, we have found a new way to care for citizens.”