Supported by a Sentara Cares grant, Wintergreen Fire and Rescue in Nelson County is launching the first community paramedicine program in the Blue Ridge Health District. The program promises to improve access to care for Nelson County residents challenged with geographic isolation and financial insecurity.
The need and potential benefits are significant: Nelson residents have hospitalization rates and cancer deaths that are among the highest in the region. Nelson has the lowest median household income in the Blue Ridge Health District. At least 17% of Nelson’s children live in poverty, and half qualify for free lunches.
Community paramedicine fills some of the gaps in care by focusing on prevention and wellness. Community paramedics might remove fall risks, connect patients with services and care networks, help them manage chronic conditions, secure affordable medications or just help people adjust to changes after a hospital stay. Community paramedics also help people manage barriers to health like food insecurity, lack of affordable housing and substance use disorders.