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Community members who frequently use emergency medical services in Evanston will be better connected with health care education and resources to improve their health and prevent future hospital visits as part of a new community health outreach initiative, the Evanston Fire Department and AMITA Health Saint Francis Hospital announced earlier this month.

The Evanston Community Health Outreach (ECHO) program, a partnership of the Evanston Fire Department and AMITA Health, will use a mobile integrated health care approach to provide individuals at high risk for hospital readmission with free in-home medical visits, health education, social service referrals, home safety inspections, and other resources. The goal is to improve residents’ overall health and reduce costly and often unnecessary emergency room and hospital visits by addressing health issues before they reach the crisis level. Both the Evanston Fire Department and AMITA Health have made a two-year commitment to offer the program.

“The Evanston Fire Department is proud to join with AMITA Health Saint Francis Hospital on this important initiative to improve the health and well-being of some of our City’s most vulnerable residents,” said Evanston Fire Chief Brian Scott. “This novel approach will better connect individuals experiencing chronic health issues with the care they need to improve their lives, while also ensuring the efficient deployment of Evanston Fire Department and community resources.”

“This innovative partnership will help bring important health services directly to some of the members of our community who need it most,” said Kenneth Jones, president of AMITA Health Saint Francis Hospital. “By placing trained caregivers out in the community, we hope to better address key health concerns and issues before they escalate into something that requires a trip to the emergency room. Many of our patients find it challenging to find transportation for regular visits and checkups; we’re also helping to solve those issues by bringing the care to them.”

Program participants will be selected by AMITA Health Saint Francis Hospital’s Emergency Department. Those who choose to enroll will complete the program in four weeks.

The ECHO program is modeled after successful initiatives in other communities, including Colorado Springs and Rockford, which each saw significant reductions in emergency room visits by enrolled participants.

Evanston Fire Department firefighter/paramedics and nurses from AMITA Health Saint Francis Hospital will serve as ⁣ommunity paramedics†in the program, providing participants with the following services:

• Personal health education to better understand their medical issues and recognize problems before they become emergencies.• Health care system education to assist with all aspects of the health care system, from finding a physician, to scheduling appointments, to refilling prescriptions, to navigating the complex health care insurance landscape.• Social service referrals for resources that can improve their quality of life. • Home safety inspections to ensure they are protected by working smoke detectors, and that other household dangers, such as clutter or trip hazards, are minimized.