West Pierce Fire & Rescue announcement.
This year, West Pierce Fire & Rescue (WPFR) implemented a Connected Community Access, Referral and Education (CARE) program which works to identify and assist those in need of services, but not the 9-1-1 system. The goal of this program is to address commonly identified barriers to appropriate healthcare access, improve community health and reduce the utilization of emergency medical resources whenever possible.
WPFR’s Connected CARE Program Manager, Karen Gilbert, has been a Registered Nurse for 26 years, where 11 were dedicated to case management. She is an integral part in helping those in the community who need it. Gilbert works with those who need assistance navigating in areas such as facility placement, transportation, food, social services, chronic disease management, healthcare access and behavioral health, to name a few. Gilbert also collaborates with the Lakewood Police Department’s Behavioral Health Team and other agencies who provide vital services in the community.
Often times, police and firefighters will respond to 9-1-1 calls where people need help finding the appropriate community services. By having programs available within both agencies, it helps to ensure the community is being provided the highest levels of service.
Historically, firefighters have not been trained in how to access these types of resources or how to navigate and coordinate them for patients. Firefighters are being trained by Gilbert to recognize and identify patients in need of these types of resources. After referring patients directly to her, she can evaluate their medical, social and behavioral health needs and find the appropriate resource to connect them.
Implementing this program addresses an ongoing need within the community. Historically, some patients have used 9-1-1 and the emergency room as the first option to access care. Our goal is to provide patients with education on available resources, empowering them to manage their own healthcare, mental health and social needs.