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PMH Awarded Community Paramedic Grant

The CMS Health Care Innovations Grant program announced Friday morning that PMH has been awarded almost $1.5 million dollars to develop and provide a Community Paramedic Program.   

Mike Schreiner manages the PMH Ambulance (EMS) system and for years he has talked about the need for some kind of health care outreach for our fragile and most vulnerable patients. These patients are members of our community who don’t qualify for Home Health but still need some extra attention and care. Mike and his EMS crews see these patients in their homes, in the Emergency Department and in our Hospital, and too frequently they were seeing the same patients more than once.  Our EMS team was convinced that the key to keeping these neighbors of ours healthy and out of the Hospital was follow up care right in their homes.  The problem was that, like so many things in health care, there was no funding for a program that keeps people healthy.  Mike saw an opportunity with the CMS Health Care Innovation Grant program to change that. 

In the 4th quarter of 2011, Mike teamed up with Prosser’s Community Grant Writer, Sue Jetter, to develop and write the grant.  They worked with our Hospital and community physicians to identify the types of patients who have a high likelihood of being readmitted to the Hospital or our Emergency Room.  These readmissions cost billions of dollars each year and Medicare, Washington State and private insurers are all actively looking for ways to eliminate readmissions and reduce costs.   The Hospitals’ mission is to improve the health and well-being of the people in the communities we serve.  It seemed like a natural fit. 

When a discharging physician identifies an at-risk patient they refer that patient to the Community Paramedic program’s RN Case Manager.  The PMH Community Paramedics then make a series of visits to the patient’s home to check in, make sure the patient is improving, following discharge instructions, taking their medications and following up with visits to their primary care doctor. PMH already had the skilled paramedics, so tapping into the established EMS infrastructure made great sense.   Heritage University stepped up and committed to design a training program on a very tight time schedule. 

Everyone we talked to about the Community Paramedics program thought it was a great idea.  The Prosser EMS district covers hundreds of square miles of rural and remote territory in Benton and Yakima Counties as well as the cities of Prosser, Grandview, Mabton and Paterson.  The potential to improve care for people in this large area generated a lot of excitement.  We had great support from Senators Murray and Cantwell and from Representative Doc Hastings as well as the Washington State Hospital Association and neighboring hospitals. 

The PMH Community Paramedics grant competed with thousands of other potential projects so there were several anxious months of waiting. We remained encouraged though by a steady stream of requests from CMS for more information and clarification.  That meant that someone was reading and analyzing our grant – right?  The first round of grant awards was announced in May of this year and the PMH Community Paramedic program was not on the list.  Almost immediately though, Sue and Mike received another request for additional information from CMS.  We knew that a second round of awards was due to be announced in June and it was clear that we were still in the running. 

Friday CMS announced that the Prosser Washington Community Paramedics Program had been awarded $1,470,017.  What an amazing opportunity this is to reach out to our communities with the kind of care and attention that improves their health and reduces costs.  Thank you to Mike Schreiner for his persistent vision and Sue for her skill. Sara Barron, Karen Livezey,  Alma Martinez, Steve Bradley, Tina Glockner, Karla Greene, Keith Butvilas and the many others who helped identify the gaps and define the solution.   The program should be operational by October and there is a lot of work to do between now and then.

It is great to have something this exciting to celebrate and share with our neighbors, friends and community. 

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