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PITTSBURGH, PA (March, 14, 2023) -- Pittsburgh EMS and the Office of Community Health & Safety (OCH&S) are proud to announce the implementation of a Community Paramedicine Program in Pittsburgh. As the birthplace of both modern paramedicine and the field of community paramedicine, this is the evolution and advancement of a long-standing tradition of public health-driven care in the city.
Under the direction of EMS Community Paramedic Crew Chief John Mooney and OCH&S Manager Laura Drogowski, the program will be designed to address the needs of the most vulnerable in our community. An alarming number of people in Pittsburgh are living with untreated conditions - and dying - because they do not have access to resources to manage their chronic health needs. Even when services and support systems are available, they are unable to reach them and calling 9-1-1 can become their only lifeline.
"The City, through Community Paramedicine, has a unique opportunity to truly "see" these residents. Ongoing support by EMS Community Paramedics and OCH&S social workers will help connect patients with the proper health services, allowing them to remain stable in their own homes and avoid future hospitalization. This reduces their reliance on the 9-1-1 system and improves patient outcomes," said EMS Assistant Chief, Mark Pinchalk.
Prior to the program's official launch, Crew Chief Mooney and EMS personnel have been working closely with OCH&S social workers since late 2021 to provide care to patients outside of 9-1-1 calls.
"Paramedics and EMTs most often see these patients on an emergency call basis, unable to help them long-term with their treatable conditions. It's devastating for first responders to regularly witness patients decline in health over multiple visits. With this dedicated, full-time program, we will be able to provide ongoing support for patients, in collaboration with other Department of Public Safety bureaus, community partners, and health systems," said Community Paramedic John Mooney.
Many of the patients who frequently call EMS are living with difficult-to-manage chronic health conditions such as obstructive lung diseases (asthma and COPD), diabetes, seizure disorders, and heart disease. Patients with higher rates of EMS calls also use the emergency system for minor falls, mobility challenges, and mental health issues. If their needs go unaddressed, they can experience increasingly serious or catastrophic outcomes without the ability to access resources outside of calling 9-1-1.
Recognizing that EMS is public health, Office of Community Health & Safety Manager Laura Drogowski helped spearhead and design the Community Paramedicine program. OCH&S community social workers, in partnership with EMS personnel, provide a continuum of care, so that residents may receive sustained, durable, health support.
"A devastating number of our residents are in desperate need of assistance, be that medical, social, psychological or systems navigation. The ability to access promised resources can often take hours on the phone, knowing exactly who to call and what to say; even then people fall through the cracks. Falling through the cracks means that people die, alone, from treatable conditions. Our first responders see them every day. We are committed to changing these outcomes, providing advocacy, connecting patients with resources, and fighting for what is needed," said Drogowski.
Moving forward, the Community Paramedic Crew Chief will work with three EMS-OCH&S liaisons and OCH&S social workers, with intensive engagement from EMS colleagues and other Department of Public Safety bureaus to provide patient care, build program infrastructure and referral partners, and train personnel to advance and grow the program.
Other public health-informed care programs between OCH&S and Public Safety bureaus are already operational, including collaborations with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire and its People In Need of Support (PINS) program, and with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police through the Trauma Survivor Assistance Program (TSAP) and co-response unit - an ongoing pilot program operating in the North Side since February 15, 2023.
EMS Community Paramedic Crew Chief John Mooney and City of Pittsburgh Community Social Worker Anmol Baxi