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Paramedics Meet Folks Where They're Comfortable to Prevent Hospital Stays

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Mercy Flights' mobile paramedics can offer up to 30 days of transitional support after someone is discharged from the hospital. (Jason Quigley)
Mercy Flights' mobile paramedics can offer up to 30 days of transitional support after someone is discharged from the hospital. (Jason Quigley)
 By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR - Producer, Contact
July 27, 2020

MEDFORD, Ore. -- First responders are reaching beyond emergencies to support people in southern Oregon.

Mercy Flights is the emergency transportation provider in Jackson County. Meg Wills, population health portfolio manager with the coordinated-care organization Jackson Care Connect, said her organization collaborates with Mercy Flights so a team of specially trained paramedics can implement a unique support system for people who frequently come to the hospital.

"What Mercy Flights mobile integrated paramedics are able to do is to wrap care around people when they've been identified in those acute settings and really ensure that they get linked to the services that will hopefully prevent those members from going back into a hospital," Wills said.

She said the team offers up to 30 days of transitional support after someone is discharged, including providing a home assessment and help such as educating people about their medications.

Sabrina Ballew is supervisor of Mercy Flights' integrated health care program. She said paramedics in this program can assess folks anywhere.

"We will meet them wherever they're comfortable," Ballew said. "So this could be on a street corner, a coffee shop, in their homes."

The team has a number of solutions at their disposal. They can connect people with medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse disorders or deliver food boxes - which has been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ballew said help can be as simple as getting someone's medication.

"So they'll get discharged home but they don't have transportation back to get their medication or their medications weren't ready for them or they're just not strong enough or understand the process," she said. "So our team will actually go out and pick up their medications for them and deliver them to their homes."

Wills said 75% - 80% of the people they reach out to engage the program. She said one of the most powerful assets is how mobile the paramedics are.

"They're out in the community and they're really reaching out to people in these moments when there's an opportunity to really reflect and think about, 'What is it that I need right now in order not to come back?'" She said.

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