Ind. county launches paramedicine program
Clarksville received a $495,000 grant from the state, which will support the program for three years
By Libby Cunningham
The Evening News and the Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind.
CLARK COUNTY, Ind. — Clark County’s the first in Southern Indiana to offer a new and free health care option for residents.
Although paramedicine is common in other parts of the state, the region’s first Mobile Integrated Health programs are taking off in Clarksville and the county as a whole.
Paramedicine programs bring paramedics and medical providers into people’s homes, where they can do things like test for the flu, conduct welfare checks, help people care for wounds, assess for fall risks and help people with medications.
“There’s a lot of people that, unfortunately, don’t have primary care physicians or they have chronic issues, and they’re relying on emergency services to treat that,” said Clarksville Fire Chief Brandon Skaggs. “So what it does is it floods emergency rooms with non-acute issues. So it taxes those (there) when an emergency comes through.”
The goal of the program is to keep people out of the hospital, Skaggs said.
Paramedics can help people dealing with a slew of health conditions that don’t necessarily need to be taken care of at a doctor’s office or emergency room.
“The chronic issues we will be able to treat is diabetes, hypertension, cardiac issues,” Skaggs said. “If we can be proactive, it may keep people from getting very ill when COVID hits or the flu hits. Then you can keep them in the home, safe and not hospitalized.”
These services come at no-cost to residents, and anyone who is a resident of the town qualifies to use them. Clark County’s program, run by the health department, is open to all residents of the county.
Clarksville received a $495,000 grant from the state, which will support the program for three years. The funds purchased a large amount of supplies for the program, including things like wound dressings and PPE, along with a paramedicine vehicle.
Skaggs said people can get referred to the program by first responders who’ve been called to their homes, family members or they can contact the town themselves.
People can call 812-282-7619, or email Eric Deich at Edeich@CFDfire.com for more information.
The program is currently running on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and several people have already taken advantage of it, Skaggs said.
Although paramedics may be able to come quickly after someone contacts Clarksville for the service, the idea is that people will schedule time with the paramedics ahead of time.
Skaggs is hopeful more people will sign up, including people in Clarksville who are from different cultures.
“One of the health challenges for this program is how can we get ourselves into a position where we can treat other cultures,” Skaggs said. “One thing that is not discussed a lot is emergency services, and quality of life, for other cultures. Clarksville has a large Hispanic population and it’s very difficult to get into that culture without having some kind of relationship that can say, “‘Hey, we trust you.’”
Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel, who’s also Indiana’s Chief EMS Director, said these programs are a win for everyone involved.
Clark County residents who don’t live in Clarksville can use the county’s program, which is also supported by grant money.
Patients get to be seen in the comfort of their homes, EMS workers aren’t clogged with runs and Emergency Rooms don’t get as full, Yazel said.
“It helps free up the EMS system to take care of the sickest of the sick,” Yazel said. “The bad wrecks, the heart attacks, the strokes. And it helps the local hospital system, helps discharge people and allows them to stay at home and receive care.”
In Clark County people can be referred by a provider to the program. Both Clarksville and Clark County will also be using this system to help people after drug overdoses.
“We’ll come out there, talk to the patients about their needs, ask if they have food and they’re any social needs they have,” Yazel said, adding some people may be seen a few times a week through this program, while others may be seen on a monthly basis, depending on their needs. “We don’t want to impede on what home health does, but we are all encompassing.”
The Clark County Health Department can be reached at: 812-282-7521.
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