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Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical teamed up with the Health Department’s Project LIVELY program in April to provide better health outcomes for residents who call 911 frequently.
Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Division Chief Eve Tolefree said the collaboration began when a University of Kansas student intern helped them analyze data for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). They learned they were responding to a concerning number of calls to help people who had fallen or needed lift assists. Many of these people were calling multiple times a month.
Fortunately, the intern recalled hearing a presentation about the Project LIVELY program during a Community Health class. Project LIVELY provides care coordination for residents ages 60 and older at no cost to them. The program’s goal is to connect older adults to the resources they need to remain independent.
After learning more about Project LIVELY, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical created a standard operating procedure to help guide department members about when to file a referral for Project LIVELY services. Additionally, they carry brochures on every Fire Medical truck.
"The partnership has been a godsend, to be honest," Tolefree said. "Our call volume has decreased for some residents. It has been real successful."
When EMS refers a resident to Project LIVELY, a care coordinator will contact the resident within a couple of days to set up a home visit. The care coordinator will then visit with the resident and/or family to learn about the resident’s needs and goals. "We want to understand holistically what is going on," said Susan Ridenour, Project LIVELY care coordinator. "The question we always ask is: ’What does the person need?’ Then, we look at the appropriate options with them to develop a care plan to meet their goals."
The resident may need:
"It’s motivational interviewing and engaging with people," Ridenour said. "It’s everybody collaborating to figure out how to provide services for people in the most cost-effective fashion."
During the first eight months, Project LIVELY received 14 referrals from EMS. The first referral involved an intellectually disabled resident who was using Fire Medical as a personal care attendant. Ridenour said the individual was on a Medicaid waiver and qualified for service coordination and attendant care; however, she was not using it. "I called her support person and notified her of the EMS calls, and that was what it took to help the resident."
Another referral involved a resident whose husband and son had died. She was intellectually disabled and had unmanaged diabetes. She was lonely and calling EMS about three times a day. She was receiving help from neighbors and friends, but it wasn’t enough.
Ridenour helped her transition into an assisted living facility, and then later she was transitioned into a skilled nursing home in Garden City. "It was connecting all of these different people together to talk and to have a plan," Ridenour said. "She wasn’t really able to walk safely, and she was confused and extremely isolated due to her conditions. She is now walking on her own, participating in social activities and has her medical needs met."
On Aug. 25, Ridenour met 93-year-old James Walsh, who had fallen a couple days before, called 911 and then declined to go to the hospital. Friends and neighbors were concerned about him because he wasn’t feeling well, had no appetite and was having trouble moving his legs. While Ridenour was there, he was unable to grab a glass of orange juice. After visiting with Ridenour, Walsh decided to go to the hospital, where he received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and was able to get the medications and therapy he needed.
During an interview in December, he said he was feeling much better and thankful for Ridenour’s help. "It was a good thing she was here," he said, with a smile.