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Manatee Community Paramedicine Team Helps Patients, Saves Money by Diverting ER Visits, 911 Calls

The Manatee County Paramedicine team, from left: Earl Kulpa, Community Paramedic; Dr. Victoria Reinhartz, LECOM Pharmacist; James Crutchfield, Chief of Community Paramedicine; Angela Hadlock, Community Paramedic

A small team of paramedics  is quietly transforming community health in Manatee County, scheduling house calls and building relationships with patients who would otherwise be frequent visitors to emergency rooms and regularly calling 911.

The "community paramedicine" team, comprised of two paramedics, a pharmacist, and a program chief, regularly visit patients suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, or respiratory issues like COPD, or are otherwise at-risk patients for substance abuse, mental health, frequent falls, and more. Those house calls divert those patients who would otherwise call an ambulance or visit the emergency room for care.

In their contacts with patients in their own house, they've avoided trips to the ER by helping patients update prescriptions, replace wheelchairs, and more. The program's organizers calculate they've saved Manatee County $220,000 in ER visits and ambulance rides since the program started less than a year ago.

LECOM pharmacist Dr. Victoria Reinhartz and  Chief of Community Paramedicine James Crutchfield join Gulf Coast Live to discuss how the program came about, how it handles the changing demands of patients in Southwest Florida, and what they hope to accomplish with another year of funding.

Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.