SYLVANIA, Ohio — A community paramedicine program is helping seniors become independent and safe in their homes.
Marie Dilgart, 73, of Sylvania, takes care of her 76-year-old husband Bill who has suffered a number of strokes affecting his left side. There were times last year when Marie called 911 two or three times a week when Bill fell in the house.
Now she has two heroes who make sure their home is safe. Jodi Livecchi and Lt. Shawn Wittkop are full-time firefighters and paramedics with the Springfield Township Fire Department and the Sylvania Township Fire Department, but they’re also coordinators of a joint venture, the HERO program. HERO stands for Health, Education, Resources, and Outreach.
The pilot program launched in February of 2020 and has around 75 patients.
“There’s a big discussion right now about overutilization of 911,” Livecchi said. “One of the things we found is there were a lot of people who were falling and unsafe in their homes.”
After responding to 911 calls, EMS and fire crews may refer patients to the HERO program. Some referrals can also come from other healthcare providers.
Once a week for up to eight or nine hours, Livecchi and Wittkop assess a person’s home to determine if some changes can be made to reduce 911 calls. Those changes can include installing grab bars or a toilet with a higher seat to add to a person’s stability. The coordinators can also manage a patient’s medication or refer them to area agencies.
In most cases, the program deals with older residents who may not have children or children in the area.
Since the HERO Program started, it has seen an 82 percent reduction in 911 calls with the patients they’ve helped. The townships claim a reduction in the number of medical alarms will provide a savings and will result in more crews ready to respond more often.
“It’s a win for them and it’s also a win for the department because we’re utilizing our resources,” Wittkop said. “Our fire trucks are ready and we’re here to help them out when they’re aging comfortably in place.”
There’s no cost for patients to use the program as it’s funded through the general fire budget.
Since she joined the program last fall, Marie has called 911 considerably less.
“Those grab bars help Bill get up and he’s able to hold on to his walker or get into his wheelchair,” she said.
To learn more about the program or to become a patient, you can reach Lt. Wittkop at firstname.lastname@example.org or Livecchi at email@example.com.