Sept. 7, 2011 | Alameda County Health Services Agency Director Alex Briscoe did not ask the city for money Tuesday night. Instead, he wanted the council’s support allowing the county to identify one of the city’s fire stations for a three-year pilot program that aims to slow rising health care costs among the poor and uninsured.
More patients in California seek care through emergency rooms than any other state in the union, Briscoe said. Much of those visits are not emergency in nature, he says, and at considerable cost to the state and county’s safety net. The innovative idea hopes to mimic successful low-cost clinics currently utilized in the private sector by pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS
Instead, three full-time employees–a nurse practitioner, fire paramedic and health care coordinator–would staff clinics in proximity to county fire stations. Briscoe says the proposal is treading on what he found is goodwill among residents toward their local fire departments. Minorities and the youth, two demographics that typically ignore the heallth care system, are more likely to visit a clinic near the facilities than not, he found.
Additional clinics slated for Newark and Union City could begin as early as July 2012, said Alameda County Fire Chief Sheldon Gilbert. The program is fully funded, said Briscoe, but may eventually need one-time contributions from city governments for construction and renovations.