“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin
Prevention is the idea behind Fire District 1’s community paramedic program. Fire District 1 partners with the Lynnwood Fire Department and Compass Health to identify and assist area residents whose needs go beyond a simple medical fix.
The program is funded by a grant from Verdant Health Commission. It began in 2014 as the first program of its kind in Washington state.
Who calls a community paramedic?
The community paramedic program bridges a gap between the patients firefighters see regularly and the community services that already exist to help meet their needs. Firefighters can call for the community paramedic to assist them on a scene, or may refer a patient for follow-up services. Patients who have called 911 two times in 24 hours or three times over 30 days are automatically referred to the program. Hospital and social service staff may also make referrals.
Community paramedic clients
There are currently about 300 south county residents involved in the Fire District 1 Community Paramedic Program. More than half are older adults. The average age is 72.
Community paramedic services
The community paramedic follows up with these at-risk patients through a telephone call or a home visit to find out what’s behind multiple calls to 911. In addition to a medical assessment, there is a home safety survey to prevent falls and other risks.
A mental health counselor and a peer counselor from Compass Health work out of the Fire District 1 headquarters to assist in responding to behavioral and social service needs.
Fire District 1 also partners with more than 50 social service agencies that can provide patients with non-medical assistance that is often less costly and more effective in meeting their true needs.
The goal is to help clients remain in their home. The program is free – part of the services paid for through property taxes that support Fire District 1.
In 2015, people participating in the Community Paramedic Program made 48% fewer calls to 911 and 46% fewer visits to the hospital than before their referral to the program.
The program was the first of its kind in Washington state. Its success has drawn attention from around the country, and is one reason the program is expanding with new partners in Snohomish County.
Community Paramedic Task Force Office
Community Resource Specialist