Public Safety

County Initiative to Offer More Health Service Options in Rural Areas

Firefighter Paramedic checking advanced lifesaving equipment next to a fire truck.
Firefighter Paramedic Brenton Rowell from the Mt. Laguna County Fire Station is completing his morning checks of the Advanced Life Support gear.

The County is moving forward with a Community Health and Injury Prevention Initiative to expand health services and community education to areas that lack health care facilities and transportation.

The Board of Supervisors received an update on the effort Tuesday and directed staff to prepare for future phases.

The County Fire Protection District’s Emergency Medical Services, in partnership with the Health and Human Services Agency, will work to provide community health care services beyond a traditional 911 response. The initiative supports health equity in all parts of San Diego County. Health equity is giving everyone a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.

In phase one of the program, County Fire personnel will train residents to prevent injury and improve health. Initiatives will include drowning prevention, helmet safety, and car seat safety checks. Seniors and people with disabilities or other access needs may get in-home hazard assessments, Vial of Life forms, smoke detector checks and referrals to support programs. High school students and their families could receive Hands-Only CPR and Stop the Bleed training to help in times of crisis.

New opportunities to expand outside of traditional 911 services could come in 2022 with phase two of the plan. Assembly Bill 1544, signed into law in September 2020, provides new care options for paramedics answering emergency calls. If funded, frequent 911 users could get help with case-management and public health resources.

There is also a new alternative to help patients avoid a trip to hospital emergency rooms called Triage to Alternate Destination. Medically stable patients could be transported to a behavioral health facility or sobering center to better treat their needs. Paramedics may also provide in-home support for hospice patients.

Phase three looks at the evolving health care landscape and works to leverage the strong partnership between County Fire and the Health and Human Services Agency.  HHSA public health nurses and paramedics could team up for joint visits to residents to bring care to the patient instead of transporting the patient to emergency departments. Fire stations could provide clinic spaces in outlying areas, making the most of County infrastructure.

 

Chuck Westerheide is a group communications officer with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact