Mercy Health’s Community Paramedicine Program bridging care gap


Submitted story

Mercy Health – Urbana Hospital is helping bridge the care gap with its Community Paramedicine Program.

Some of the biggest challenges patients face happen after being treated, once they leave the hospital.

“A lot of times when you get discharged from the ER, you’re getting overwhelmed – everything’s being thrown at you including new medications, new instructions, just everything. Elderly people, especially, will get home and say what just happened and what now,” explained Cheryl Wears with Mercy Health’s Community Paramedicine program. “I can be that person to go out and talk them through that, help them understand what they need to do and ultimately reduce those repeat ER visits.”

Mercy Health, with the help of Urbana Fire Chief Dean Ortlieb, secured a grant in 2019 to launch the paramedicine program in the Urbana community.

“With over four decades of experience in the fire service, I’ve consistently encountered individuals grappling with the challenge of not knowing where to seek assistance. Many find themselves lost within bureaucratic systems, lacking community partners or family support to guide them through the complexities,” said Ortlieb. “Fortunately, our journey aligns with the support of valuable community partners, exemplified by our collaboration with Mercy.

Through strategic utilization of this grant, we are now actively working together to bridge the gap and provide vital assistance to those in need within our community.”

Working side by side with local first responders, Wears also collaborates with other agencies to ensure patients have the support they need to be successful at home – whether that support be medical, emotional, mental, or spiritual.

“Cheryl is sort of a first responder from the hospital. She removes some of those barriers and can get out there faster than the social services agency is available most times. Because of her connections, she can even get them help faster in some cases, and that’s what it’s all about – filling that care gap,” explained Mercy Health Community Relations Director Brian Miller.

Since it began, the program has helped more than 350 patients with everything from answering medical questions and providing basic care to connecting patients with meal support or other assistance such as having a ramp built at a client’s home. The goal of the program is to provide help directly to those that need it most, and the communities it serves say the program has made a huge impact.

“When Cheryl came out and explained the program, we immediately knew it would be wonderful because we knew there were so many resources out there these people needed that we couldn’t fulfill for them,” said Karen Salerno, Victim Advocate with Mechanicsburg Police Department. “She’s a victim advocate for people with health issues – that’s how I look at it. She fills the gap in services offered so nicely, and we couldn’t do what we do without her.”

Marlana Shonkwiler is an EMT with the Mechanicsburg Fire Department. She believes the program has helped alleviate some of the strain on the local community’s resources by addressing the root problem of too many people calling 911 with non-emergency issues.

“We are an aging community, where a lot of people just need someone to talk to or they need just a little bit of help – say to get up out of their chair or to get something to eat – so they call 911. That’s where Cheryl comes in – she’s helped tremendously with getting them the resources they need and that we, as a fire department, couldn’t provide,” Shonkwiler explained.

Both Shonkwiler and Salerno say they’ve seen a big drop in calls for service since the community paramedicine program came to town.

“Before, if someone didn’t call, you’d start to worry about them and whether they’re doing OK. This program has been a huge relief, because not only have the frequent callers decreased, but we know it’s because these people who needed help are getting it,” said Shonkwiler.

For more information about the Mercy Health Community Paramedicine program or to make a referral, call 937-484-6218.

Info from Mercy Health

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