Mesa community medicine program shutters due to lack of funding
PHOENIX — A community medicine program run by the Mesa Fire Department shut down earlier this month when it could not sustain itself after running out of money from a $12 million federal grant.
Mesa Fire Chief Mary Cameli suspended the Mesa Community Paramedicine program on March 1 because she “could not deliver on her pledge to make it self-sustaining,” according to the East Valley Tribune.
“I don’t regret this for one second. I am proud of our members,” Cameli said. “I think we learned a lot. It taught us how to modify our dispatch and how to get the right people to the right call.”
The program was staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants and handled routine calls, such as nose bleeds and back pain, in an effort to keep certain cases out of emergency rooms.
It also involved firefighters and certified crisis counselors taking patients to behavioral health centers to “make a more informed diagnosis.”
The program had treated thousands of people since it began in August 2012.
The federal grant that funded the program went away by Sept. 1, 2017. The grant also allowed the department to replace some of its large fire trucks.
The department started to run into problems collecting insurance payments this month, so they started again taking all patients to emergency rooms.
But Chris Cebollero, an emergency medical services consultant in St. Louis, said he hopes to persuade Blue Cross/Blue Shield to fund services like Mesa’s starting this year.
“We are creating history every day in this new environment of community paramedicine,” he said. “I think the insurance companies need to be creative in the way they pay for services.
“The program in Mesa was one of the programs doing incredibly well,” he added. “For the patients’ well-being, they should figure it out.”