The Key Peninsula Fire Department received grant funding earlier this year to proactively work with residents who are high frequency 911 users. The program is intended to provide early interventions that will improve health and decrease the number of calls and transports to emergency rooms.
“Key Peninsula, with its geographic isolation and limited transportation, was uniquely suited for this kind of project,” Fire Chief Dustin Morrow said. “The fire department is established and trusted. We also have the logistics and relationships in place to implement a program.”
The department analyzed data from frequent callers, defined as eight or more in a year. About two dozen individuals called 911 for assistance of some kind more than 200 times total during 2019, according to Anne Nesbit, KPFD prevention specialist and public information officer. Although some calls were medically necessary, many were due to social, environmental or housing issues.
“The goal of the program is to work with our community to explore alternate paths to care or resolution other than 911,” Nesbit said. “An alternate path could be as simple as a grab bar, which makes getting out of a chair or off the toilet manageable. It makes sense for us to be proactive in this space rather than reactive.”
Nesbit contacted all of the individuals eligible for the program.
“Personally, I am really excited about the project,” she said. “It allows for great opportunities for positive patient contact and education and it allows us to expand what we can do to service our community.”
Department staff will make visits and develop plans based upon individual needs and positive outcomes. “This could be increased home visits, regular phone check-ins, telemedicine connections, or referrals. Some of this is going to be discovered along the way and will
influence how we form up our plans long term,” Morrow said. The staff plans to provide services that are in the department’s domain and referrals to resources as needed.
“This will for sure be a team approach, as all individuals have very different circumstances. Some require additional medical follow up, some have environmental or social needs, and some simply need general assistance in managing their way through the complicated health care system,” Morrow said.
Bret Price, ARNP, who has an office in Key Center, has contracted with the department. Morrow said that Price’s training as a licensed nurse practitioner is beyond what a paramedic can offer.
“Bret is in place for those individuals that we can already see need more. His primary role will be to make sure that any medical situation he observes is accurately communicated to the individual’s primary care physician, or to get the individual the care they need if they do not have a primary care physician,” Morrow said.
If the program is successful, Morrow plans to submit a proposal to expand the program to those who have called the department five or more times in a year.
Elevate Health, Pierce County’s Accountable Community of Health, provided the grant. “Elevate Health approached all Pierce County fire agencies through a countywide EMS workgroup. Some of the fire agencies elected to participate and some did not,” Morrow said.
There are nine ACHs in the state, all nonprofit organizations that are community-based coalitions whose goal is to improve health and health equity. Funding for ACHs comes in part from the Washington State Health Authority. “Elevate Health braids together those resources with funding from the private and public sectors,” said Maura White, public affairs and marketing officer for Elevate Health.