Community Paramedic. For most, this term conjures an image of emergency, flashing lights, and crisis; but for many, Community Paramedics are part of their health care plan and support team. Allina Health offers a revolutionary program for high-risk patients such as seniors and the chronically ill. These patients are often times return visitors in the ER, but with paramedics like Kimberly Hessen, preventative health care can come to them.

“It keeps them in their home; a lot of people I’ve seen over the years, if we take them out of their homes, it exacerbates the illness,” explains Kimberly, EMS Hennepin Country “We have access to patients, in their own environment, before they end up in crisis in an emergency room because they haven’t taken their prescriptions, because they couldn’t afford them”

With an inside view into the homes of Minnesotans, community paramedics see more than just medical issues. An assessment of an individual’s lifestyle can reveal a lack of access to healthy food and healthy eating education, further hindering their ability to achieve a full and healthy life. The role of a community paramedic is to ensure that these patients are connected to all of the resources they need to thrive, which often times means giving them a MATTERbox.

In 2015, after seeing so many patients consistently missing meals and lacking healthy food, Hennepin Country Community Paramedics began utilizing the MATTERbox on patient home visits to provide an immediate healthy meal solution. Over the past two years, the MATTERbox has not only provided immediate healthy food options and a teaching tool for diabetes management but strengthened the bridge of trust between patient and paramedic.

Kimberly Hedger, shared that asking for help is hard for many of her patients living in low-income situations. In many situations, it takes a few visits for patients to feel comfortable and share their other needs. She and fellow community paramedics make it apart of their job to identify each patient’s unique needs and how to serve them.

“We don’t walk up to the door with it [MATTERbox],” said Kimberly Hedger. “We get to know the people and see what their needs are, and then I think they’re a little more accepting of the assistance.”

Relationships are at the core of a community paramedic’s job. The MATTERbox provides one more tool that can be used to build trust, restore dignity, and provide resources to people in our community.

“Obviously, 16 meals isn’t going to solve their problem but by giving them the MATTERbox, providing that for them at that moment, then gives us time to set them up with other resources within the community.” said Cory Kissling, manager for Allina Health EMS.