West Metro set to purchase new Advanced Resource Medic car

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By Deborah Swearingen

West Metro Fire board approved the purchase of a new Advanced Resource Medic car just four months after kicking off a partnership with DispatchHealth, a Denver-based startup that provides in-home care for patients.

The relatively new service is ideal for those who need medical attention that’s not emergent and can be provided by an emergency room-certified nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant. It’s also one that West Metro believes will save money and provide convenience for district residents.

When West Metro EMS is dispatched to a medical call through the 911 system, its staff assesses the situation. In scenarios when a patient doesn’t need emergency medical attention, West Metro then calls for the ARM car, an ambulance stocked with extra supplies that operates as a miniature emergency room. DispatchHealth medical personnel are equipped to treat a variety of ailments, including minor fractures, skin infections, dehydration, strep throat, nose bleeds and more. DispatchHealth also can administer IV fluids, provide medications, take blood tests and rapid infectious disease tests and suture a patient.

The nurse or PA assessing a patient has access to an on-call physician should they have questions or need assistance. After the in-home visit, the medical professional follows up with the patient and provides information to the patient’s primary care physician. DispatchHealth accepts Medicare and Medicaid and partners with insurance companies to charge anywhere from $200 to $300. Furthermore, it offers a self-pay rate of $275, which includes everything from evaluation, IV fluid administration and stitches to blood work and medication. The cost may be less under some insurance plans and for seniors with Medicare.

Since the partnership began in May, West Metro has been using an older ambulance for the DispatchHealth service. The new ARM car, made by Peak Motor Coach in Golden, will be specialized for the in-home care program and includes a refrigerator, space for supply cases and more.

However, West Metro Division Chief Bob Olme said his team has been meticulous in ensuring the ambulance could be used if the partnership with DispatchHealth dissolved.

“It’s not like you’re purchasing a specialized vehicle necessarily,” Olme said. “ … Great care was taken to make sure that it could be used across the district.”

The ambulance should be ready for use in 90 to 110 days.

Resolution in support

Additionally, West Metro’s board of directors unanimously approved a resolution supporting the ballot measure being put forth by the district in the November election and urging voters to approve it.

If approved, the initiative would allow the fire protection district to adjust its mill levy to compensate for a loss in revenue due to a reduced residential assessment rate.

Similar to fire departments across Colorado, West Metro is concerned about the impacts of the Gallagher Amendment, which limits the growth of residential property taxes. Property taxes are a primary source of funding for fire protection districts and other government and public bodies. If the residential assessment rate drops from 7.2 percent to the expected 6.1 percent, West Metro predicts a $5 million loss in revenue. The full-service fire agency serves nearly 280,000 residents across more than 108 square miles in Jefferson and Douglas counties.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.