GREAT FALLS — Great Falls Emergency Services now has a designated community paramedic - Peter Tyler. "It makes people healthier. If they're healthier, then they're not calling 911,” explained Tyler.
Tyler's role as community paramedic is part of a one year grant-funded suicide-prevention program that Alluvion Health is running in partnership with Great Falls Emergency Services; it started on October 1st.
"What we're trying to do is screen as many people as we can,” said Tyler.
When GFES has to transport someone in an ambulance for whatever reason, the patient is asked a few simple questions to determine if they may be at risk of suicide and, if so, how much of a risk.
Tyler can then connect them with mental health services if necessary. "For the month of October, we've done over 130 screens. Of those, about 30 of them were actually high enough that we needed to re-look at them,” Tyler said.
Fortunately, only a couple had not already been connected with services.
Even so, GFES general manager Justin Grohs said the program is needed. "We do have substance abuse issues in this community, we have mental health issues. The more we can work together to address these in productive ways will just improve the quality of this community and the folks that live in it,” Grohs explained.
But perhaps the biggest advantage of the program so far, Tyler said, is the ability to be designated to help people with issues other than mental health as well.
"Crews, while they're in their home or on scene, they might notice things or have the patient say something like 'I'm having trouble getting access' or we're running on a diabetic frequently. It's, like, 'Okay, how come we're coming to see you so frequently?' They say 'I don't have a testing meter.' Well, I can get them a testing meter,” said Tyler.
Simple solutions like that could go a long way toward solving problems in the community that are anything but simple.
Grohs expects grant funding to be available to continue programs like this once the initial funding runs out. But, he said the ultimate goal is to have health insurance payers, like Medicare and Medicaid, reimburse the costs.