Mercy Health — Urbana Hospital, in close collaboration with Urbana Fire and EMS, has secured a grant through the Ohio Department of Health’s Community Paramedicine (CP) Rural Health Pilot Program to launch a CP program. The grant process started at the federal level, with 43 states applying for consideration. Ohio was one of three states to win the award and within Ohio, Urbana was one of three communities to win the grant, which is valued at $225,000 over three years.

Within rural Champaign County, an aging population base and community members with chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurological and respiratory disorders struggle to access regular primary care and preventive services. Barriers to access include geographic distance, lack of transportation and financial challenges.
Regular and preventive care could help these community members manage their conditions before they need to seek costly emergency medical care for assistance and help them enjoy a better quality of life. Care access can also help lower the rate of hospital readmissions and ensure the emergency department and EMS are available to treat patients with life-threatening emergencies.

“CP is a new health care model that allows paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to serve in expanded roles, bringing primary care and preventive services to under-served populations in the community,” said Jamie Houseman, President, Mercy Health Urbana Hospital. “In addition to providing community members with important access to health care services, CP can help lower overall health care costs by reducing visits to the emergency department (ED) for non-emergency health issues.”

Champaign County also has a low number of behavioral health specialists available to provide care. The CP program will address this by providing mental health screenings in the community, nursing homes and assisted living facilities and connecting community members to mental health care.

Tracy Short, Community Education Coordinator for Urbana Hospital, is the project manager for the CP program.

“I look forward to collaborating with area agencies, including Urbana Fire and EMS and all Champaign County Fire and EMS units, as well the Champaign Health District and the Mental Health Board, to design and implement a CP care model in rural Champaign County,” said Short. Our goal is to create accessible, community-based care to prevent and relieve disease-related symptoms of chronic disease and provide behavioral health services.”

The CP team will monitor the program to accurately measure its effectiveness and impact on the population it will serve. Ultimately, Urbana Hospital and its agency partners intend the project to serve as a model that can be effectively replicated in other rural communities, a goal that the ODH shares.