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Akron Fire Department Launches Community Paramedicine Program

Akron Beacon Journal

Paramedics in Akron have a new role offering free, in-home consultations to help residents avoid injuries, live healthier lives and, ultimately, call 911 less for non-emergencies.

The city announced Tuesday that the Akron Fire Department is launching REACH, a community paramedicine program that stands for Resources, Education, and Advocacy for Community Health. Paramedics in the program will help seniors and underserved populations avoid injury by identifying hazards at home, like missing handrails, and live healthier lives by offering transportation and education to connect residents with basic medical care and social services.

"While every call to Akron 911 is treated with professionalism, care, and attention, not every call requires an ambulance ride or emergency department visit," Mayor Dan Horrigan said in a statement. "Responding to non-emergency calls can result in a preventable utilization of EMS time and equipment. We knew we could serve both patients and the community better by addressing those non-emergency needs in a different way."

Of the 42,483 911 calls received last year by paramedics in the Akron Fire Department, 9,915 involved requests for non-emergency assistance due to a lack of medication or food, a slip or fall that resulted in no injury, no way to get to a primary care doctor and other preventable reasons that tie up the city's life-saving EMS staff.

"By adopting a community paramedicine program, Akron Fire paramedics and EMTs can operate more holistically by connecting patients with primary healthcare services and offering preventive solutions," Fire Chief Clarence Tucker said in the city's statement announcing the new proactive healthcare model. "REACH conducts in-home visits and provides a combination of pre-EMS intervention, home safety assessments, social services referrals, education, and health care system coordination and navigation."

To request an in-home consultation and risk assessment, Akron residents can call 330-812-7590.

After the in-home visit, paramedics will share what they've learned with partnering agencies that can help, like the University of Akron School of Social Work and Summit County Job and Family Services. Outcomes will be tracked to monitor health and safety improvements for enrollees and the program.

Paramedicine programs are a newer concept for delivering preventative health care. Green adopted the practice in February. Dayton launched its program in May. Some efforts in Ohio involve partnerships with local hospitals, which Akron officials said they hope to have soon.

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