"We're trying to put ourselves out of business."
That is how Peoria Fire-Medical Chief Bobby Ruiz described a pilot study on paramedicine during a May 3 city council study session. Peoria is one of five West Valley fire departments Goodyear, Avondale, Peoria, Surprise, and Sun City - taking part in the West Valley Community Paramedicine pilot study project scheduled to begin July 1 - that will determine the feasibility of creating a program to help reduce hospital readmissions and improve community health.
Talks began two years ago between West Valley fire departments and St. Luke's Health Initiative (now Vitalyst) and the health Services Advisory Group, a Medicare-funded nonprofit charged with reducing hospital readmissions and improving community health.
Vitalyst encouraged the West Valley departments to apply for a grant to "approach community paramedicine from a regional perspective." The City of Goodyear made the grant application, and will disburse grant funds ($125,000) through intergovernmental agreements between the other participating fire departments. The grant supports training costs, curriculum development, and staffing. All training costs and staffing have been calculated at overtime rates and are fully reimbursable. The city will not incur staffing costs.
Two SUV-type vehicles will be used. Goodyear and Avondale will share one vehicle, while Peoria, Surprise and Sun City fire departments will share a second vehicle.
Deployment in the field is planned for up to 20 hours a week per vehicle. Peoria's obligation may be one day a week, with overtime to be paid by the grant.
Ruiz said, "This is a way to reduce users who use 9-1-1 on a frequent basis."
Deputy Chief Jim Bratcher said the program is designed to reduce visits to the emergency rooms.
"For years, we've done fire prevention," Bratcher said. "We can look at this and think of this as EMS prevention."
Ruiz said as things stand now, there is limited follow-up with individuals.
"This study is aimed at breaking the cycle," he said. "In Peoria, we have about 100 to 120 frequent users."
Bratcher said, "The West Valley has the highest readmission rate and Peoria and Sun City are the two highest in the West Valley."
High frequency users are those patients that access the 9-1-1 system three or more times during a month or 15 or more times a year. The partnering agencies will identify and contact the top 10 percent of high frequency users of 9-1-1 services.
Mayor Cathy Carlat asked Ruiz how different this program was from the Mesa Fire Department program. Ruiz said the Mesa program focused on behavioral health.
At the end of the presentation, Carlat remarked, "This is really exciting, the dawn of a new day."
Peoria will share administrative support, participate in the training and curriculum development, share fuel costs and contribute existing equipment.
Bob Ramsey Foundation for Social Justice/Starwest Technologies will provide ePCR software and tablets and provide technical support to develop the data gathering tool and analytics.
Sun Health Foundation will provide instructors for training, access to a social worker for referrals, and will provide patient education materials it has already developed.Sun Health will provide same day access to a series of clinics it operates throughout the West Valley
Through its own clinics in the West Valley, Arizona Mission of Mercy will also provide same-day access.
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