Mary Helen Darah
A joint venture between Springfield Township and Sylvania Township Fire departments is helping reduce the over utilization of 911 calls in the community. The HERO program, which stands for Health, Education, Resources and Outreach, was launched in 2020 as a means to prevent potential falls and accidents in resident’s homes.
Lt. Shawn Wittkop feels the services he and his team provide are making a positive difference. He stated, “We have an aging community who often live alone and we also have individuals who retire in place. The number one health risk for them is falling. Falls can be catastrophic. We often encounter them through a 911 call and the resolution is not the treatment they need, especially during a crisis. The HERO program receives referrals from the 911 calls which will lead to long-term solutions and future care.”
Following a referral the team makes a home visit and provides an assessment. This evolving healthcare model allows paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to make changes such as installing handrails, removing area rugs that could pose a fall threat, adding additional fire alarms and providing a patient’s coordination of medication or they refer them to area agencies. “Those visits on the backside of a fall incident can find things their physicians may not be aware of,” said Lt. Wittkop. “We can help start the process of implementing solutions instead of continued falls. We recognize hazards and articulate our concerns to their doctors. Since Covid there are so many programs that don’t go into the home. The fire department, with its credibility, is a trusted source of help. We are in their environment and become a connector between care providers and physicians. It helps them to create a plan of care moving forward. This program was never meant to replace physician care, but to collaborate with them. We are able to provide them with information for someone to be safe in their home.”
Jodi Livecchi is excited to be part of the program and finds it to be a rewarding experience. “One of the big things for me as an EMT is that we normally fix and go, especially concerning falls. It’s like watching a sinking ship. With this program, we are able to turn things around. We are not just ‘pulling them out of the water’ but making big, effective changes.”
Lt. Wittkop also finds being part of the program rewarding. He stated, “The Fire Department created Fire Prevention Week 35 years ago. We look at the numbers and today numbers are significantly lower thanks to that initiative. We may not see the impact of the HERO program immediately, but it will have a huge impact. It is providing appropriate care for our citizens and our EMT/paramedics in service will have more availability to handle emergency calls.”
The HERO program is in the process of finding ways to fund this free service to community members. “The Sylvania Rotary Club recently gave a contribution, which is greatly appreciated,” stated Lt. Wittkop. “Because it is a division out of the fire department, we are unable to use taxpayer funds. Anything that is used for the general populous is covered; the items that are specific to the program are not covered. Anyone interested in making a donation to the program can do so by sending a check made out to the Sylvania Township Fire Department specifying the HERO program. The HERO program is a vital no cost resource that will assist our residents to safely age in place.”