PENDLETON --- The first Community Paramedic Training program in the state will be offered by Tri-County Technical College beginning February 9 at the College's Easley Campus.

The course will be held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 - 9:30.  Participants must have been employed as a paramedic with an agency for two years or more on a full- or part-time basis.

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 classes conclude May 26.  The cost is $1795 plus books and test fee.

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

According to Steven McDade, 911 director for Anderson County and a member of the CPP advisory consortium, "Community Paramedic Training is a valuable, advanced credential for a paramedic whose role as a health-care professional is to provide emergency treatment, including advanced life support, to patients in life-threatening situations.  A community paramedic extends primary care and public health services back into the home and approaches each case holistically by educating the patient on his or her condition with the goal of reducing re-admittance to the hospital," he explained.

According to Riley, paramedics are trained to provide emergency services, but many times the calls they respond to are not true emergencies. Training EMTs in community paramedicine helps to fill the gaps in community health care and reduce the use of expensive emergency services for non-emergent conditions.

For example, when patients who have used emergency services are discharged from the hospital to their home, there is often a need for additional support to ensure a smooth transition. Community paramedics are able to provide that support under the supervision of a doctor, which helps to lessen the need for follow-up calls to emergency services for problems that might have been avoided. Community paramedics can monitor social and environmental factors that impact their patients' health. They follow-up with patients to be sure they are taking their medicine as prescribed, check to be sure they have healthy food in home to eat and connect them to primary healthcare providers and community resources like food banks if needed.

 "This training takes the EMT beyond responding to emergency calls and utilizes their talents and services for preventative and follow-up care.  Doing so helps to lessen patients' reliance on emergency services," added Riley.

Studies have shown that the most frequent users of emergency room and emergency medical services include those with multiple chronic health conditions who also have issues surrounding transportation, understanding communications, or maintaining their independence.  "They often have low income, cultural or language barriers and medication dependencies," said Riley. "More attention to their transition back into the home helps to decrease follow-up calls to emergency services."

"Community Paramedic Training puts the paramedic in a preventative role as opposed to a reactionary role," said Chris Bowers, who is over the operations unit and a paramedic at Bowers Emergency Services in Easley.  "It changes and expands the mindset of the paramedic."

"The need for community paramedics is huge in the tri-county area because we are losing paramedics to upward mobility.  Many are going back to school for advanced degrees to work as RNs and physicians' assistants so the need is ongoing," said Bowers.

"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," he 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. 

But he says it takes the combined efforts of those who have a stake in maintaining the health and well-being of community residents for this to succeed.  "It involves collaboration among EMS, hospitals, physicians, nurses, home health agencies and pharmacies.  We are all looking for ways to be more efficient and keep our residents out of the hospitals." 

Echoed Randy Bowers, owner of Bowers Emergency Services, "This training will revitalize and change the profession for the better."

Until now, community paramedic training was unavailable anywhere in the State. "Communities were having to send EMTs out of state to places like Texas to get the training they needed to become certified," said Riley. "We are pleased to be able to provide this training in close proximity to meet their needs."

According to Riley, Abbeville County has been a trailblazer in the field of community paramedicine, and assisted Tri-County in developing its training programs.  "We have been fortunate to have representatives from the county to assist us in developing our program. 

"We are pleased to be part of the solution and helping to make our community better," she added.

For more information, contact Andrela Riley at 646-1724 or