“It’s going to be an effort to include all organizations and agencies in the community through one centralized paramedic that can actually do work out in the community and work with the fire and EMS folks and the hospital,” said Tracy Short, community educator for Urbana Hospital. “The grant was for $225,000 that will go to use over three years, so each year we’ll have about $75,000 in our budget to operate the program. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for someone who may not have support, or the resources, or know how to navigate the resources available to them,” she said.
“This person can kind of connect them with resources, they can even do in-home fall assessments, some vitals, and a plethora of other things they are going to be able to do. We’ve got to detail our program that we’re going to roll out, but there are lots of opportunities and options as we move forward.”
Helping people access health care
According to the hospital, Champaign County has an aging population base and community members with chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurological and respiratory disorders who may struggle to access regular primary care and preventive services. Barriers to access include geographic distance, lack of transportation and financial challenges.
“CP is a new health care model that allows paramedics and emergency medical technicians to serve in expanded roles, bringing primary care and preventive services to under-served populations in the community,” said Houseman. “In addition to providing community members with important access to health care services, CP can help lower overall health care costs by reducing visits to the emergency department for non-emergency health issues.”
“What this is going to do is to allow us to maybe improve the quality of life for the people that we serve, so that’s the big thing we’re looking at doing,” said Ortlieb. “We’re going to take this and we’re going to embed ourselves, along with Mercy, into people that may have certain concerns that we weren’t able to handle before, but with Mercy’s help we’re able to handle those and maybe be able to make a difference and improve on their quality of life.”
According to the hospital, Champaign County has a low number of behavioral health specialists available to provide care. The CP program will address this by providing mental health screenings in the community, nursing homes and assisted living facilities and connecting community members to mental health care.
Short will serve as the project manager for the CP program. Ultimately, Urbana Hospital and its agency partners intend the project to be a model for other rural communities.
“I look forward to collaborating with area agencies, including Urbana fire and EMS and all Champaign County fire and EMS units, as well the Champaign Health District and the mental health board, to design and implement a CP care model in rural Champaign County,” said Short. “Our goal is to create accessible, community-based care to prevent and relieve disease-related symptoms of chronic disease and provide behavioral health services.”
“This is a wonderful coming together for the hospital and the community to bring these organizations at the same table and collaborate for the good of the community to bring our care and our service literally outside the four walls of this facility, and outside of the walls of the other agencies taking it to people where they’re at and where they need us,” said Houseman. “We’re really excited about that proceeding.”
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304