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Avery Community Paramedicine Program Receives $290,000 Grant from the Duke Endowment

By Tim Gardner

Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital in Linville recently received a three-year grant from The Duke Endowment totaling $290,000. These grant funds will allow Cannon Memorial Hospital and Avery Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to establish a Community Paramedicine Program to serve Avery County.

Community Paramedicine is an innovative new healthcare model that seeks to provide underserved patients with improved access to public health and preventative healthcare services. Through the program, specially trained Community Paramedics visit patients in their homes to assess their overall health, living conditions, support structure and other social determinants of health. Avery EMS and Cannon Memorial Hospital will identify potential program participants through primary care referrals and by analyzing the highest utilizers of emergency services. By improving this populations’ health, the program will also reduce unnecessary EMS calls and emergency department visits, freeing up these services for true emergencies.

Aptly meeting the medical needs of the Avery County community, Charles A. Cannon Jr. Memorial Hospital serves as the hub of healthcare in Avery County. The full-service medical campus offers inpatient medical care, imaging, laboratory services, primary care, surgery, rehabilitation, cardiopulmonary services and behavioral health services. Thanks to a $6.5 million grant provided by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Cannon Memorial Hospital has begun its two-and-a-half-year construction project to expand the availability of behavioral health beds from ten to thirty-seven. With the goal to provide the best care possible, Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital is fully accredited by the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare for Organizations.

Cannon Memorial Hospital’s president Carmen Lacey stated, “We are very excited to work with Avery EMS to bring a community paramedicine program to Avery County, and we appreciate this opportunity given to us by The Duke Endowment.”

Owned and operated by the county, Avery County Emergency Medical Services began operations on October 1, 1994. It currently operates at the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)-Paramedic level with twenty-four full-time employees and approximately twenty part-time employees.   Avery EMS is staffed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week with at least two crews and a field supervisor.

Monday through Friday, Avery EMS operates and schedules a day crew from part-time employees in addition to three full-time crews. The day crew is staffed from 8:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and responds from the main station in Newland. One twenty-four hour crew is assigned to the Newland base, one is assigned to the Banner Elk base, and one is assigned to the Green Valley Community base.

Mike Edmisten, Avery EMS Director, added about the Community Paramedicine Program: “This will be a very important program for the county. It will not only improve the health status of hundreds of individuals, but it will allow Avery EMS to free up resources to better respond to emergencies.”

Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has distributed more than $3.7 billion in grants. The Endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.

“With growing concerns about health care costs and overcrowded emergency departments, community paramedicine is proving to be a promising way to connect vulnerable patients to the support and care that can keep them healthier,” says Lin Hollowell, director of the Endowment’s Health Care program area.