ST. LOUIS COUNTY - An important follow-up story to a chronic problem for a local emergency medical system.
Last year, 22 patients used Christian Hospital's 911 system more than 600 times. In February, a new program was put into place to try to reduce the number of repeat callers.
Terrell Jones was one of those callers.
"I was in there a lot," said Jones.
Last year, Jones called Christian Hospital's 911 system almost 50 times. His emergencies were brought on by the pain of sickle cell disease.
"My disease," said Jones, "there's no telling when it will happen."
But in the past three months, he's only needed to go to the emergency room twice. During the time, Jones began working with Christian Hospital Advanced Practice paramedic Derek Mollett.
"It's all about working with the patients," said Mollett.
Where Mollett was once taking patients like Jones to the emergency room, he's now making some house calls. He's connecting patients who don't have regular doctors to primary care.
Christian Hospital calls this the Community Health Access Program, or CHAP for short. Half of the week, paramedic Mollett still runs 911 calls. But the rest of the time, he's following up on those calls, helping his patients to doctor's appointments, reduce stress, even quit smoking. All issues that lead to numerous 911 calls in the first place.
Since the program started in February, hundreds of patients like Terrell have been helped. CHAP has navigated more than 1,800 patients into getting regular medical care. And the progress is measurable.
"We've seen a seven percent decrease in our non-emergent volume in the E.R.," said Chris Cebollero, chief of Christian Hospital's EMS. "We've seen a seven percent decrease in our non-emergent volume to the hospital through our EMS from the field."
And a 22 percent drop in calls from frequent 911 users like Jones. Cebollero was expecting some push-back.
"But we find people coming in saying, 'I don't want to go to the ER, I want to go to that place you've got upstairs,'" said Cebollero.
It's a starting place, where symptoms can be managed before they become a crisis.
"These are people that really need our help," said Mollett.
The Community Health Access Program, CHAP, still doesn't have funding. But a number of insurance companies have reached out since February, asking how they can get involved.