Ever dedicated to the health and well-being of their community, the Granite Falls Ambulance Crew keeps on developing new ways to serve their community as they implement their own Community Paramedic Service. This program serves to fill in the gaps that often occur in the health care system as trained crew members are able to see patients and administer the needed care to thos who do not fit the standard criteria for home health care. Certified crew members are able to provide basic home health services to patients who fall into this gap.

Jana Berends, the Granite Falls  Ambulance Director, explained that, “Everybody sees us as a 911 services, you call us and we’re there right away. But there’s so much more we can do to meet the needs in the community.” Berends explained how it was discovered that there was a large population that cannot qualify for home health services because of factors such as them not being homebound, but this population still needed their basic health care needs met.

And in the world of confusing health care, these ambulance crew members can help them with a variety of tasks such as pill management, wound care, blood draws and a variety of other services for patients. The hope is to also keep patients out of the emergency rooms for basic care that doesn’t fit the criteria as ‘true emergencies’, which often leads to a costly burden on the health care system.

“It’s basically everything that Home Health can do but it’s serving a different population,” explained Berends. It’s worth clarifying that the program is not designed to take businesses away from the Home Health Care business, instead the program is meant to fill the health care gap where patients may need care. Plus, the new program works with the Home Care program as the crew members keep an eye out for referrals, “It meets the needs in a different way and cuts health care costs. For me, if I find somebody that I’m seeing that will now qualify for Home Care, then I can refer them to Home Care.”

The idea for the program got its roots about a year and half ago, according to Berends, when the thought arouse, “how can we as an ambulance reach the needs of our community in a different way?” Dr. Darrell Carter and Dr. Art Rillo, the medical directors for the crew and foundation of what they do, set up a set of protocols on what the Community Paramedics can do. Jen Jager and Berends are the two crew members who were certified for the program.

EMT Dave Evenson will be assisting Jager and Berends during the runs. In order to be certified, Jager and Berends had to take a course through Hennepin Technical College of 12 credits and 196 hours of clinical time, which was done back in October in preparation for the program. “Both Jen and I are registered nurses and so its using a lot of our nursing knowledge that we have in seeing the whole picture and not just the life-and death emergencies.”

The first patients were seen right after Christmas, and the program has been going strong ever since, with Berends explaining that she already has a ton of referrals for the program. Referrals can come in for the program froma variety of sources, including the ER, physicians, social services, and Home Health Care. This program is the first one in the southwest area of the state, with programs more easily found in metro based service providers.

The nearest rural providers are Wadena and Fergus Falls, according to Berends. As a plus side, the program allows for Community Paramedics to serve outside the Ambulance Crew’s normal state mandated service area. “With this, as long as we have a physician order to do it, we can go wherever,” explained Berends.

The hope is to expand their coverage area once all they get established in their routines and procedures in the local area before spreading out. Those interested in the program or looking for more information are welcomed to contact Ambulance Director Jana Berends. Berends can be reached at her email at Jana.Berends@granitefallshealth.com or at her office number at (320) 564-6274.