New program in Prince George's County helping reduce 911 calls, patient trips to hospital

You can call it an ER on wheels. A new program is helping unclog the 911 system by teaming paramedics and firefighters with hospitals in making urgent care house calls.

This program started this winter in Prince George's County and since it has been up and running, it has helped firefighters respond to more emergencies and fewer health-related checkup calls.

For 74-year-old Leroy McCracken, he is calling 911 a lot less thanks to a new program that identifies residents with overwhelming health problems who call 911 more than five times a year. McCracken fits the bill as he suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.

"It seemed like every 10 to 15 days I was going back and forth to the hospital," McCracken said.

This program, called Mobile Integrated Healthcare, started in November and is staffed with firefighters and paramedics working with a team from Washington Adventist Hospital. McCracken is one of 37 clients.

In this program, McCracken said goals were set, which included avoiding the hospital during the holiday season. He was able to do it for the first time in a long time with the help of Prince George's County paramedic/firefighter Kenneth Hickey.

"When I have a problem, I have Ken's number, I have the nurse's number, so I call either one of them and tell them what is going on," said McCracken.

"Usually he would get a basic fire engine and a medic unit because when he would call, he was very high risk," said Hickey. "So since, those units have been available to remain in service around other calls as needed."

Hickey said the Mobile Integrated Healthcare program is free for residents.

"The program itself does cost money, but the rate of return on it is a lot less," he said. "Currently, of the 37 clients we have enrolled into the program, we showed a savings of over $350,000."

Hickey said the money for the program comes from the hospital and fire department and they are looking to expand in the future.