By Elizabeth Pullman
Whitehall Ledger 

New Program Brings Healthcare Direct to Patients

 

March 31, 2021

When describing Jefferson County, it's hard not to mention how large and spread out the county is. The county is expansive and lacks several amenities that other counties enjoy - such as a hospital and urgent care facilities. There's no doubt our Whitehall Medical Clinic goes above and beyond to assist the community, but now a new program has been created in hopes to assist the Clinic, as well as other primary providers.

Kamrie Smith is the new Jefferson County Community Integrated Health (CIH) Administrator and is hoping that the services she and other medically trained personnel can provide will help take some of the stress off the local healthcare system.

The program is new to the state as of last year; implemented by a pilot program grant awarded to Jefferson Valley EMS & Rescue (JVEMSR).

"This program will help close the gaps in healthcare for those in our area," Smith said, explaining that the program works to bring healthcare directly to the client and keep things either in the patient's home or in the JVEMSR building on Legion Ave. "From three separate Community Health Assessments, one conducted by the health department, and two from JVEMSR staff, we have pinpointed transportation as a large healthcare barrier within Jefferson County. Community Paramedicine has the ability to bypass that barrier, as well as other community healthcare disparities."


The Community Integrated Health program will work under the patient's primary doctor to provide assistance in: transportation to appointments, checking vital signs, medication compliance assistance, nutrition assistance, chronic disease management (diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension etc.), home safety checks to make sure there are no areas where falls could happen, infant weight checks, blood draws, wound care and more.


"We can morph this program in to what the community needs - there are lots of areas to expand," Smith said. "In some counties were CIH has been implemented, Community Paramedics are completing well child exams and even basic dental exams. I foresee a big part of the JVEMSR CIH program being connecting patients to services that are already in place in the area, that residents may not be aware of. Such as organizations like Sincerely Paul and Whitehall Transportation that are doing fantastic work. We hope to have a great working relationship with mental healthcare providers, substance abuse centers, home health care agencies, and many other organizations in order to best serve the community."


Smith is also finishing her courses to become a certified Family Support Specialist. The Family Support Specialist will be able to assist families who have struggled with opioid use disorder (OUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD). Smith will also be trained in youth mental health first aid, management of aggressive behaviors, applied suicide intervention skills, child welfare system training, early childhood development training and motivational interviewing.

The CIH program is designed to take some of the smaller healthcare items off the plates of the primary care doctor and give more personalized care to patients. Smith said that, on average in Jefferson County, the patient load is 1100 patients to every one primary care provider. Another goal of community paramedicine is to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.


The program also allows CIH providers to follow patient progress and outcomes more closely, which isn't always possible when administering emergency medicine.

"This is a more in-depth way of care. We can do more, connect patients to resources, and really follow their progress as they work through their health struggles," Smith said.

"We have a great team of professionals participating in the program. Nurses, AEMTs, and Community Paramedic Technicians who have very specific training in CIH. When referrals come in, I will be assessing the patient's needs and matching them with the appropriate provider."


The CIH program is based out of the JVEMSR, PULSE, and Jefferson Valley Rural Ambulance District (JVRAD) building at 203 West Legion Avenue, next to Thriftway. Hours are by appointment only. Referrals from your primary care provider are required and can be sent to jvemsr.cih@gmail.com. The program currently does not accept insurance, but a new bill in Legislature currently will likely change that soon. Fees are on a sliding pay scale. "We don't want anyone not receiving care because they don't feel that they can afford it." If you have any questions about the program, they can be directed to Kamrie Smith at the email provided, or by calling 406-880-3003.

 

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