The city’s services and resources were overburdened by a relatively small number of people. We needed to come up with a better way to meet their needs.
“The most rewarding part of my career came very early on when I was a paramedic: Putting my hands on people we were called to assist, and making them better – or feel better – as a result of what I was doing. I believe that’s why we all get in it – to make a difference.
“And now, as chief, I find it incredibly rewarding to be able to identify problems in the community and find solutions that work. For example, last year we launched the Mobile Integrated Health Office (MIHO) in response to a disconnect in care in our city.
“We have a number of people who are not necessarily getting the care they need, and were disproportionately using up the city’s resources (ambulance, ER, etc.) as a result. We’re nearing 20,000 calls this year  – we need to be able to answer them all.
“Having spent the better part of a decade as a paramedic, I saw firsthand that we didn’t always have the tools to help them – at least we didn’t have the right tools in the right places. Now, with the MIHO, we’re able to track people with more complicated and complex needs; we’re able to design a more personal plan to address the needs of those who are higher users of the city’s resources.
“It’s so nice to be able to provide people with the care they actually need, and it frees up our services and resources to help the larger community through our 911 system. We’re starting to collect really great data on how it’s helping. In fact, the data is overwhelming. We’re changing lives.”
Our Mobile Integrated Health Office is changing lives.
“We were regularly being called to help a single mother with a child (early teens) who has a seizure disorder. The mother has some behavioral issues as well – issues with substance abuse. She had been caring for her child alone for many, many years – even carrying him up and down the stairs twice daily. This was far beyond her capabilities, so there were slip issues, and a number of falls. Furthermore, the child was not always receiving his medications because she didn’t understand how to administer them.
“MIHO did a home assessment; the team immersed themselves in their lives and connected the dots for this family. She needed some physical help – railings on the stairs and a lift assist. The child started getting the medications he needed, and the MIHO team educated people at his school about his conditions and needs as well, enabling them to help, too. It was life-changing for this family to receive help from someone who understood the system.
“Another person who stands out in my mind is a guy who had engaged the city and county systems – 911, ER, and jail – over 200 times in one year. In our integrated care approach, we were able to get his needs met and, as a result, reduced that number to one time in six months.
“Not long ago, a man came walking up to me in a suit and tie. He told me that our program has cleaned him up to the point that he had a job interview that day. It was the same guy. He’s now living a normal, functional life.”
We all share a genuine interest in the citizens we serve and their well-being.
“We take a great deal of pride in our work, and we really do care about all the things we take an oath over – to protect our communities, show compassion and care for the people we serve, and to serve honorably. We share a genuine interest in the citizens and their well-being, and yes, we’re as approachable as it seems.”
–Santa Fe, New Mexico Fire Chief Erik Litzenberg