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In Presidio, a new effort to bring preventative care to residents at home

Jesseca Murillo, Stephanie Rivera, y Troy Sparks de Presidio EMS son parte del nuevo programa de paramedicina comunitaria, que pretende reducir las idas de urgencia de la comunidad por brindar atención preventiva en casa.
Annie Rosenthal
Marfa Public Radio
Jesseca Murillo, Stephanie Rivera, and Troy Sparks of Presidio EMS are part of the new community paramedicine program, which aims to reduce emergency room visits in the community by bringing preventative care into the home.

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Healthcare in Presidio has long been limited. Ninety miles from the nearest hospital, with no 24-hour clinic in town, residents often rely on strapped emergency services to address basic health needs.

But starting this month, thanks to a $5.5 million grant from the federal government, local providers hope to change that.

The new funding means extended hours for the local clinic: previously open just during business hours, it’s now open till 10 p.m. three days a week. The grant is also supporting the launch of a new program called “community paramedicine,” meant to help residents address health problems at home, before they become emergencies.

Marfa Public Radio recently spoke with Presidio EMT Jesseca Murillo about the new program — what services are available, and what kinds of needs they’re intended to address.

Highlights from the conversation

On the concept of community paramedicine

The new program allows residents to request visits from local, specially-trained paramedics to address basic medical issues that don’t qualify as emergencies. Murillo said they’re focused on preventative care — anything from helping a patient organize medications, to adjusting an oxygen machine, to making appointments with doctors.

The paramedics will also serve as advocates for the patient in their interactions with doctors, helping to facilitate communication and provide follow-up information and education.

"Sometimes a doctor can't spend more than an hour at an appointment, explaining to the patient how to use the medication, or the side effects or precautions they have to take when taking their medications," Murillo said in Spanish. "If the patient has more questions, then that's where we come in to help them."

On why it’s necessary in Presidio

Murillo says there are lots of elderly people living alone in Presidio, some of whom often call 911 for day-to-day problems, like needing a ride to an appointment in Alpine. Responding to those calls can mean the ambulance is unavailable in an actual emergency.

"Sometimes we take the ambulance out of service for something as simple as a headache, when we find that it's needed at the bridge for a patient in critical condition, or an accident," she said in Spanish. "And, well, we're not in Presidio because we're taking a patient for something that could be addressed there in Presidio."

On the goals of the program

Murillo hopes that the program will decrease hospital visits, which are especially taxing for elderly patients. She says sometimes patients end up making the trip to address an issue that doesn’t actually require hospital care — and then, since the ambulance is not allowed to bring people back to Presidio, they can find themselves stranded in Alpine, waiting hours for a way to get home.

"For me, and for my colleagues, that's where we come in — to help keep that from happening, to help them not have to go to the hospital and to improve their health," she said in Spanish. "That's our goal, to improve the health of the Presidio community."

Presidio residents can sign up to request a visit from the community paramedics at City Hall.

Annie Rosenthal was Marfa Public Radio's Border Reporter, a role she held in partnership with Report for America. She worked at the station from 2021 to 2023.