The Mesa Fire and Medical Department recently received a grant to expand a program, called Community Care Response, that may save taxpayers money in the long run by avoiding costly emergency room visits for patients who can be treated by other means.
Over $12.5 million was awarded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in part to expand the program, which involves carrying a physician’s assistant or registered nurse with fire engines to assess residents experiencing a medical situation and decide whether someone needs to be taken to the emergency room, another type of facility, or can be treated and left safely in their own home. This program, already in limited operation, will now operate 24/7 to respond to low-level emergency calls.
“We feel like this is really going to help. Really what it is all about is patient care,” said Mary Cameli, an assistant chief at the Mesa Fire Department.
Cameli said this is the second time she has applied for this grant, but the department has operated the program on a limited basis for the past two years.
A related program also receiving funding from the CMS grant involves dispatching crisis counselors with some units described as “behavioral cars.” A counselor or captain paramedic can assess a situation, determine whether medical attention is needed and make the decision to send a person in need of further attention directly to a behavioral facility as opposed to the emergency room.
The grant was applied for in partnership with Apache Junction, and so one car will operate in that city while two more cars operate in Mesa.
“The grant is proof that Mesa Fire and Medical is on the cutting edge of service and meets the challenge by CMS to develop programs … that focus on health care savings, improved efficiencies and positive patient centered outcomes,” said Dennis Kavanaugh, District 3 council member and Public Safety Committee chair, in a statement.
But better patient care isn’t the only benefit. According to Cameli, the department will do mock billing to find out how much more these situations would have cost if patients had been taken straight to the emergency room per standard practice. She expects the data will show these programs save residents and the health care system a great deal of money.
“We are extremely pleased with receiving this grant as it will give us the opportunity to enhance our services while continuing our collaborative efforts with all of our partners,” Fire Chief Harry Beck said in a statement. “The most important part of this program is how it will enrich our service delivery to our citizens and our community.”
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