Funding will expand South County Fire’s community paramedic program

South County Fire Community Resource Paramedic Craig O’Neill (left) helps a local resident. (Courtesy South County Fire)

South County Fire will use nearly $1 million in outside funding to expand community paramedic services that help reduce 911 calls and emergency room visits, according to a news release.

Community resource paramedics connect frequent 911 callers with social services and other resources to meet their often complex needs. The program provides 24/7 response to our most vulnerable residents.

Now, continued funding commitments from Verdant Health Commission and North Sound Accountable Community of Health (ACH) are being used to add one community resource paramedic and bring in community health workers to coordinate client care.

“Demand for emergency services is growing exponentially,” said Joe Hughes, South County Fire’s Deputy Chief of Emergency Medical Services. “Expanding our Community Resource Paramedic program means we’ll help keep more at-risk residents safely in their homes and out of the emergency room. We are grateful to Verdant and North Sound ACH for sharing and supporting our vision to create a healthier, more resilient community.”

South County Fire will now staff a total six community resource paramedics, including four who work rotating 24-hour shifts. At least three community health workers will be added to evaluate client needs, schedule follow-up visits and more.

Since launching in 2013, data shows calls to 911 and emergency room visits have been reduced in more than 50 percent of client cases. While filling gaps in care, the community resource paramedic program also frees other firefighters to focus on more acute emergency needs in our community, including response to cardiac arrests, fires and car crashes.

“Through our partnership since 2019, we’ve found the South County Fire Community Resource Paramedic program consistently leading the way with innovative initiatives to serve the community which address the vital conditions needed for all community members to thrive,” said North Sound ACH CEO Liz Baxter. “We’re proud to support this expansion to increase the use of community health workers, so South County Fire can further provide the most vulnerable community members with access to supportive resources.”

A contract with North Sound ACH will provide up to $455,000 and a grant from Verdant will supply nearly $500,000 to help fund the program.

“The Verdant Health Commission is pleased to fund the Community Resource Paramedic program, a vital resource for our residents, that provides important mental health support during aid calls,” Commissioner Karianna Wilson said.

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