KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department has implemented a unique solution to deal with persistent emergency calls from residents with limited access to health care.
The Community Medical Response Team — a newly created, innovative community paramedic program — will respond to calls “from residents with limited access to health care who need help, but not necessarily an ambulance.”
"We did a really good job over the decades of selling 911, but it is not a stopgap or an end-all for help," KCFD Division Chief Michael Latta said.
Nearly 80% of KCFD’s service calls are for medical issues, but it can be expensive to send a three-person ambulance crew to every scene.
“We have identified more than 100 residents who call us for service multiple times each year because they have nowhere else to turn,” KCFD Fire Chief Donna Lake said in a statement announcing the program. “While each call for service costs around $2000, it’s really about advocating for people and connecting them to long-term solutions. As good stewards of taxpayer dollars, yes, we want to reduce costs, but more importantly, it’s about improving the quality of life for these residents.”
Instead, the new Community Medical Response Team will be staffed by experienced paramedics, who are state certified as Community Paramedics and have completed clinical hours.
These paramedics will drive regular cars and “can take the time to provide healthcare and preventive services to underserved populations in the community.”
Part of the Community Medical Response Team’s mission will be to advocate for citizens in need whose access to health care is limited by finances, transportation, mobility issues, or the lack of a stable address.
"We're not asking them to call 911," Latta said. "We’re identifying those people and we’re asking us to call us and we’ll come visit with and help them."
The team already has helped assist with COVID-19 vaccination efforts at Morningstar Baptist Church and the Shepherd Center, helping facilitate mass clinics and in-home vaccinations for homebound clients.
The Community Medical Response Team also recently worked with Jewish Vocational Services to help find a new apartment for a resident with visual impairment, who was frequently injured on the stairs at his old apartment.
Emergency crews also can refer clients to the team for support and assistance.