The Sylvania Township and the Springfield Township fire departments have joined forces to offer HERO (Health, Education Resources, and Outreach), a community paramedicine program. Lt. Shawn Wittkop, a Sylvania firefighter/paramedic with extensive nursing experience, and Jodi Livecchi, a retired Springfield firefighter with a background in mental health concerns, bring their expertise to residents of Sylvania, city and township; Springfield Township, Holland, Spencer, Swanton, and Harding townships.
“These two amazing individuals schedule appointments, assess health care needs, offer fall prevention suggestions, provide health education, make home safety checks and offer referrals to meet other health-related needs,” explained Sylvania Township Fire Department Chief Mike Ramm.
According to the chief, firefighters/paramedics were noticing patterns of return calls to the same addresses multiple times per month, many of which were preventable. The chief and his team of professionals reasoned there had to be a solution. Soon they were able to develop HERO, a plan tailored for these communities while borrowing ideas from other departments across the country.
“Our goal is to provide those who are underserved in the community with free assistance, assessing health care needs and providing safe environments along with health care education, fall prevention, home safety checks and offering resources for those who wish to remain in their own home,” he stated.
“This is a relatively new and evolving health care model. Community paramedicine allows paramedics and emergency medical technicians to operate in expanded roles,” Chief Ramm said. “In the short time that this service has been offered, we have seen a decrease in the number of repeat 911 calls.”
Referrals are made to the HERO team by emergency crews if they see a need after responding to the home for a 911 call, or when reports show that several calls are made during a short time period from the same address. Other referrals may also come from health care providers.
Since initiating the program, handrails, wheelchair ramps, and other safety features have been installed where needed thanks to the generosity of Lowe’s, Sylvania Senior Center woodshop volunteers, and others.
In addition to the Senior Center and Lowe’s, the HERO team has formed relationships with other community groups. “However, more financial resources and volunteers are needed,” Chief Ramm said.
“We have had an emphasis on fire prevention and fire safety in the last 30 to 35 years,” explained Chief Mike Ramm. “As the old saying goes, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ This focus on prevention and safety has made a noticeable difference. It just makes sense to apply this type of principle to an issue, which has become a growing challenge for us.”