Sturgis Mobile Response Team Links Patients and Providers

ambulance driving insulting they are going fast with the surrounding blurred lights

Most people believe health care services happen within clinics and hospitals, but the need for health care reaches beyond those walls into the community.  Community health workers (CHW) bridge the gap by coordinating care and addressing social determinants of health. The Sturgis Mobile Response Team (SMRT), funded by the South Dakota Department of Health (SD DOH), is using CHWs to reduce the volume of ambulance calls and non-emergency 911 calls.  

“What a patient tells a provider can be completely different than what is actually happening in their home situation, said Shawn Fisher, Sturgis Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Ambulance Director. “SMRT teams can go into the patient’s home and help with organizing medications, assessing fall risks, and connecting them with Meals on Wheels so they have healthy food to eat. We are the missing link between patients and providers.”   

CHWs are frontline public health workers with a personal connection and understanding of the community. As a trusted health care resource, CHWs improve connections between health and social service systems and impact the quality and cultural competence of care. With the ability to provide in-home screenings or assessments at the orders of a doctor, CHWs can receive reimbursement through the South Dakota Medicaid program.  

Health care facilities and community-based organizations are seeing the benefits of CHWs to meet challenges of access to care. Sherry Hocking, Butte County ambulance director, added CHWs to her team in Newell and Belle Fourche. Newell is a highly rural area without a medical clinic. The combination of a large geographical service area and a high elderly population make the CHWs a crucial member of the health care team for the rural ambulance provider.   

Vicki Palmreuter

“As more CHW programs are providing services, we are hearing many success stories about the positive impacts CHWs are having in the lives of their patients and clients, and in their communities,”

shared Vicki Palmreuter, BA, CCP, SDFMC program manager.   

SDFMC team members are working with the Community Health Worker Collaborative of South Dakota to expand on the current network of 115 CHWs employed throughout the state. CHW training is available at a variety of technical colleges through in-person and online courses.