Paramedics can help people in crisis without a ride to the ER. Stanislaus County's community paramedics show the challenges they overcome to deliver effective mental health care.
Community paramedicine (CP) is a locally designed, community-based, collaborative model of care that leverages the skills of paramedics and emergency medical services (EMS) systems to take advantage of collaborations between EMS and other health care and social service providers. Community paramedics receive specialized training in addition to general paramedicine training and work within a designated program under local medical control as part of a community-based team of health and social services providers.
A major goal of an effective and efficient health care delivery system is to ensure that patients have timely access to appropriate care. Building on the national movement toward better and expanded use of paramedics to address community needs, pilot projects across California are testing whether the emerging field of community paramedicine can play a role in getting people the care they need.
This case study describes the Community Paramedicine Pilot project underway in Stanislaus County in the Central Valley of California. The pilot employs community paramedics who assess patients with mental health conditions and, when possible, connect them to treatment resources more quickly than if they were transported to a hospital emergency department (ED). In this pilot, patients enrolled in Medi-Cal or who are uninsured and who pass medical and mental health assessments can be transported directly to a mental health facility without having to go first to an ED, saving time and resources.
Several factors contributed to the project's early implementation success:
- Committed team. The vision and unwavering commitment, engagement, and round-the-clock availability of the medical director. The skills and commitment of the community paramedics delivering these services.
- Stakeholder engagement. Throughout the process, from conceptualization to implementation, stakeholders have been engaged.
- Strong communication between the various partners. The medical director has made presentations about the pilot to the crisis center staff, the community paramedics stop by the crisis center to strengthen relationships with counseling staff, and community paramedics with specific expertise are known and available to law enforcement.
- Support from leaders. The leadership from all sectors involved — emergency medical services, law enforcement, behavioral health, public health, elected officials — have been engaged and supportive.
- Easy access. The crisis center is colocated with the psychiatric health facility, which has 16 inpatient psychiatric beds.
The full issue brief is available under Document Downloads.
Watch this video to learn more about community paramedicine.