Iredell Co. community paramedics connect vulnerable residents to care

Local program helps first responders identify most urgent calls

IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. — With the increasing costs and demand, Iredell County paramedics wanted to do more to help vulnerable patients who were calling 911 frequently, many lacking access to critical primary care.

They launched a Community Paramedic program in January. The program identifies high-frequency 911 callers who call at least four times a year and they send a community paramedic to do home assessments. The paramedics are there to help get to the root of their medical issues and connect them with consistent appropriate care.

They assess factors like family support and whether the patients understand their medications and have access to a primary care doctor.

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They shared simple solutions they've found that have made a big difference for some patients, including a senior who kept falling because she was wearing slippery socks inside her home. They helped her change that.

“It is really gratifying to know we can do follow-ups with the patients we can see the outcome and make a difference with them and it’s life-changing,” said Community Paramedic Kristy Smyre.

In another case, they worked with Purple Heart Homes to build wheelchair ramps for a veteran who struggled to leave his house to get to the doctor.

With the COVID-19 crisis, some of their other efforts, like helping people get their medicine from the pharmacy or food from food banks helps protects vulnerable community members from exposure

“If you have a lot of multiple health conditions, it’s rather dangerous to go out in public, go to doctor’s offices. If you go to the hospital that’s where sick people are and your chances of getting something are very high but you can go in the field and rectify the problem and improve that patient’s condition it’s much safer,” said Community Paramedic Chris Martin.

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They’re also trained to screen for COVID-19. The team members said it’s much safer to send in one community paramedic to test someone for symptoms than an EMS crew with more workers.

United Way of Iredell County awarded the program a $50,000 endowment grant to help with start-up equipment costs.

The paramedics said they meet with an average of about five to seven residents each day and the program is a free service provided by Iredell County. They believe we will see more of this type of targeted, community-based care in the future.

If you are interested in a home visit or have questions concerning the Iredell County EMS Community Paramedic Program, please contact Joy Mays at 704-878-5442 or joy.mays@co.iredell.nc.us.

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