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Focus Hilliard: Outside-The-Box Community Paramedicine

Norwich Township Fire Department’s Heith Good, left, and Nate Jennings spreadheaded the launch of Focus Hilliard in 2016. The program is a creative health care approach that allows EMTs to operate in expanded roles.

Paramedics typically arrive on scene in response to a 911 call, but first responders in Hilliard have a program aimed at preventing the emergency before it happens.

Known as Focus Hilliard, the program is Norwich Township’s version of an outside-the-box health care approach known as community paramedicine. The innovative model allows emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to operate in expanded roles.

It’s designed to cut back on crowds at the hospital and free up first responders to be able to react to more dire situations. Norwich Township Firefighter/EMTs Heith Good and Nate Jennings spearheaded the launch of the program in 2016 with the administration’s backing.

“We found that many of our residents don’t need to go to the hospital, but the local police and fire departments are the only resources when there’s an emergency. So, they just call 911,” Good said. “What we wanted to do was jump on board, be creative, and think how we’re going to serve our community in a different way.”

Focus Hilliard now serves about 100 residents per year through a partnership with the National Church Residences, according to Jessica Smith, a State Tested Nurse Aide (STNA) who serves as the program’s service coordinator.

Referrals mostly come from firefighters and Hilliard police officers based upon their daily encounters. Good and Jennings tap into their networks to take care of short-term needs, while Smith performs home assessments and lines up long-term resources, such as occupational therapy, medical
equipment, Meals on Wheels, and transportation with Hilliard Express.

Smith also follows up with residents both in-person and via phone. It’s about connecting residences with resources — whatever their needs may be.

“Sometimes residents don’t even need anything,” Smith said. “One woman would just call me weekly and say it just feels good to talk to somebody. She even called to wish me a happy Thanksgiving!”

The program has served a couple seeking addiction rehabilitation, with Good and Jennings dropping off food and calling in resources from all over central Ohio. They’ve helped individuals who are homeless, people with mental health needs, and even an elderly woman hoping to check off a bucket list item of owning a horse.

“Heith and I often think of we have attributes of paramedic and firefighter, but I think what we’ve come to believe in many situations is that these folks in our community just want human beings to talk to,” Jennings said. “Everything from horses to bedside commodes — we’ve done it all.”

Hilliard Division of Police Officer Mike Deaton has called in Focus Hilliard several times over the years. Officers are grateful to have a team to that ensures residents’ needs are met long after police respond to a call, he said.

“We don’t stop thinking about these folks after the call is over,” Deaton said. “There are a lot of resources for those in need, but they may not know about them. Focus Hilliard does a great job being the connector.”

Good said police and fire personnel are available not only for emergency response, but to serve residents for life fulfillment.

“We want you to call us no matter what – if don’t know how to navigate the health care system, for pharmacy needs, to get a hospital bed, separate pills — we want to help you with that in the most simplistic way,” Good said. “We just want to do life with you.”

Norwich Township Fire Department’s Heith Good, left, and Nate Jennings sprearheaded the launch of Focus Hilliard in 2016. The program is a creative health care approach that allows EMTs to operate in expanded roles.

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