SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A community outreach program called the Community Healthcare Integrated Paramedicine Program, otherwise known as CHIPP, is helping the Rio Rico Medical & Fire District reduce emergency department visits by providing health education to residents suffering from a chronic illness.
"So far, the program seems to be working," said spokesman for RRMFD Capt. Michael Urbanski. "We're visiting these patients less."
Urbanski, who has been with the RRMFD for 10 years, said paramedic teams of two visit the resident's home and, with their permission, conduct surveys and assessments to make sure certain healthcare needs are being met.
"Our community is small," said Urbanski. "We're very invested in our community. We want to see them do their best and be at their best health."
The program's executive director Matt Eckhoff said the program kicked off in January 2014. It hopes to improve the health and quality of life of the program's participants, at no cost, by promoting health education, improving medical management and being able to link those participants to community resources.
They also perform home and safety scans to prevent falls or other home hazards.
Eckoff said RRMFD is hoping to expand the program countywide and hope to serve not just residents suffering from a chronic disease, but anyone needing help.
"We're really trying to ramp up the program," said Eckhoff.
Residents like Louis Chaboya, who has been living in Rio Rico for 45 years, said this program hits close to home.
"My next door neighbor, who passed away, she was just so pleased with the fire department when they showed up," said Chaboya. "They know her. They know who she is and what her issues are."
Eckhoff said this program was implemented with the help of a federally funded grant. The Southeast Arizona Health Education Center, also known as SEAHEC, is just one of the partner for the district's current 3-year grant.
"We are also partnered in the grant with the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital, and the Center for Rural Health at the University of Arizona," said Eckhoff.
Chaboya, who said the district knows his wife's medical condition as well as his own, hopes the program will continue to grow.