Lake Village, AR - In early October 2023, the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership received Department of Labor funds to launch the Advancing the Rural Emergency Response: Arkansas Delta Training Initiative. The three-year project is designed to strategically increase the number of local individuals trained, certified, and hired as emergency responders. The program will offer individualized support for Arkansas Delta residents to successfully complete emergency medical technician (EMT) and paramedic training programs in order to meet current and growing health workforce gaps in emergency medical services across the region.
The South Arkansas Delta region is designated by Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) as a health professional shortage area and medically underserved area. Emergency medical service (EMS) providers are scattered throughout the region, often with 1.5 hours or more between stations. Poor roads and lack of transportation (public, private, and/or personal vehicle) further exacerbate the need for sufficient EMS. According to the Arkansas Department of Health - EMS Division, there are currently 5,044 emergency medical technicians (EMT), 171 advanced EMTs, and 2,680 paramedics in the state (self-reported data, June 13, 2023).
According to the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and paramedics are listed in all 10 workforce regions of the state as critical, in demand jobs (Projected Employment Opportunities List 2022-2023). Local ambulance service organizations in the region (Pafford Medical Services, Promed Ambulance) noted an immediate need for emergency responders and an eagerness to engage in health workforce training efforts. In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) introduced the new Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) designation to prevent rural hospitals at greatest risk of closure (effective January 1, 2023). This new designation eliminates all inpatient services (i.e. acute care, behavioral health, labor & delivery) previously provided by the rural hospital. This shift is anticipated to directly increase the need for EMS services, as well as the distance to inpatient care. It is unknown the extent of added demand this will place on EMS, however the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership and project partners (including 13 ARHP member hospitals spanning the region) are eager to mitigate potential impacts through proposed EMS training programs as soon as possible. They recognize that the workforce need is critical and urgent as patients will rely more heavily on EMS to provide life-saving medical interventions, maintain longer transport times between acute care inpatient hospitals, and take care of a sicker patient population in general due to lack of local inpatient services. By growing the EMS workforce, the community also prevents the outward migration of residents due to lack of locally available healthcare, poorer health outcomes, and higher morbidity and mortality rates. In response to demonstrated need, the newly funded initiative will recruit, train, and connect individuals from the Arkansas Delta region to good jobs as licensed EMS providers (50 EMTs, 42 paramedics).
Mellie Bridewell, ARHP Chief Executive Officer and President describes, “Our new workforce initiative will offer entry-level training opportunities and more advanced training to meet a range of student and workforce needs in the region. New emergency medical service (EMS) providers will support the changing needs of rural hospitals as they opt out of providing inpatient services(in order to survive) and ensure that residents maintain access to needed emergency services (including potentially longer wait and transit times). Newly trained EMS providers will also build capacity for behavioral health services within the region by completing Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) for Emergency Responders training, with behavioral health as another critical health workforce gap. Program enrollment will begin in November 2023, with the first student cohort (EMT) launching in January 2024.” Jamie Gresham of Pafford Medical Services shared, “Pafford is thankful for the unwavering support ARHP offers our communities and staff. This announcement will help bridge the gap in the Delta to ensure additional funding to develop our much needed workforce.”
Project Partners: Arkansas Rural Health Partnership (ARHP), Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District, ambulance services (Pafford Medical Services & Promed Ambulance),colleges & universities (South Arkansas College, University of Arkansas at Monticello - McGehee & Crossett, AR campuses, Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas, Southeast Arkansas College, & East Arkansas Community College), and 13 ARHP member hospitals (Helena Regional Medical Center, Magnolia Regional Medical Center, Medical Center of South Arkansas, Dallas County Medical Center, Delta Memorial Hospital, Forrest City Medical Center, Chicot Memorial Hospital, Baptist Health, Bradley County Medical Center, Sevier CountyMedical Center, Ouachita County Medical Center, Ashley County Medical Center, and McGehee Hospital).
Service Area: The (predominantly south) Arkansas Delta service area includes 19 counties (Arkansas, Ashley, Bradley, Calhoun, Chicot, Cleveland, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Grant,Jefferson, Lee, Lincoln, Lonoke, Monroe, Ouachita, Phillips, St. Francis & Union).
Intended Project Outcomes: Increase access to certificate and degree path programs in emergency medical services for Arkansas Delta residents with demonstrated financial need; Increase the number of trained and qualified emergency medical responders in the Arkansas Delta region; Improve access to locally available emergency medical services in the Arkansas Delta region; Increase the understanding and availability of good jobs with employers throughout the Arkansas Delta region.
For more information about the program, please contact Lynn Hawkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership
Arkansas Rural Health Partnership (ARHP) is a non-profit healthcare organization headquartered in Lake Village, Arkansas. ARHP members currently include 16 rural hospitals, 2 federally qualified health centers, and 3 medical teaching institutions. Initiatives aim to improve the health and wellness of rural residents, build a health workforce pipeline, sustain rural hospitals, and strengthen rural economies. The organization is the largest healthcare service provider in South Arkansas and serves as a hub for economic growth and development across the region and a voice for rural health entities across the state of Arkansas.