PENDLETON --- A new advisory committee that worked this year to research and create the curriculum for a model Community Paramedicine program at Tri-County Technical College received the Advisory Committee of the Year award.

Community Paramedicine Advisory Committee members  V. Taylor Jones, deputy chief, Emergency Services Division, Anderson County; Steve McDade,  director, Unified Communications Center,  Anderson County; William Blackwell, EMS chief, Abbeville County; Randy Bowers, CEO, Bowers Emergency Services; and Chris Bowers, director of operations, Bowers Emergency Service joined     Andrela Riley, healthcare director for Healthcare Excellence in the Corporate and Community Education Division at Tri-County to accept the award at the College's fall convocation.

Community paramedicine puts primary care and public health services back into the home. Paramedics approach each case by educating the patient on his or her condition with the goal of reducing re-admittance to the hospital.   

Local paramedics are obtaining this training through the first Community Paramedic Training program in the state offered by the College.  The 300-hour program exceeds the 225-hour minimum required by state guidelines, which calls for 100 instructive and 125 clinical hours of training.  Tri-County's program offers 100 hours of classroom training, 150 clinical hours and an additional 50 lab hours.  The first class began February 9 at the College's Easley Campus.  Participants must have been employed as a paramedic with an agency for two years or more on a full- or part-time basis.

"Community paramedicine is a program that takes seasoned EMT practitioners and provides them additional training so they are skilled to call on citizens in their communities, between emergency calls and offer basic wellness checks and counseling on issues such as nutrition and health management," said Andrela Riley, healthcare director for Healthcare Excellence in the Corporate and Community Education Division at Tri-County.  "Most often they assist people who have obstacles getting to and from their primary care practitioners and often end up in the emergency rooms of our hospitals.  The program is designed to perform more frequent check-ups on individuals, so that more severe medical issues can be prevented and lives can be saved," she said.

Bowers Emergency Services of Easley approached the College in 2015 seeking to start a community paramedic program in the area.  Randy Bowers, president of the company and chair of the Community Paramedicine Advisory Committee, saw a need for his community and reached out to staff from his company, along with AnMed Health, Anderson County Emergency Services, Abbeville County EMS and Baptist Easley.  The group created the Community Paramedic Advisory Committee. "From the information shared by these more seasoned community paramedics and their programs, the team drafted the curriculum and created a model that not only will enhance the skills of current paramedics but will help the citizens of Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties," said Riley. 

The College's Community Paramedic Program was approved by the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Advisory Board of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control at its December 10, 2015, meeting.  "Communities are expanding the role of paramedics to provide better, more cost-effective healthcare," said Riley. "Our role is to provide the training they need to make this possible."

The first cohort had a combined 100-plus years of experience as paramedics.  "The students have reached out into their communities and brought their life experiences into the classroom making the training more valuable," said Riley.

"The instructors have been phenomenal.  Their approach to the program is unique and they demonstrate their knowledge and depth of understanding of the chronic conditions citizens are faced with and the methods in which to address them.  When incorporated with the students' real-life experiences, it makes for a dynamic teaching environment," she added.

 "A healthy community is our collective goal -- maintaining folks' chronic conditions at home before they get out of hand. This can be a life-changing event which leads to healthier communities," Bowers said.  He added that community-based health takes the stress away from the health care system, with regard to ambulances, the emergency room and family physicians.