Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles on the emergency service system in Teller County and parts of Park County.
ATV accidents, injured hikers, falls of people, older residents reporting symptoms of stroke or heart attack, calls to the 911 dispatcher activate emergency medical services in Teller County and beyond.
A refined machine with multiple moving parts, the EMS is a collaboration of dispatchers, volunteers, healthcare workers, helicopter services, hospital staff and medical directors Jeremy DeWall and Timothy Hurtado.
Recently, Teller County Commissioners Bob Campbell, Erik Stone and Dan Williams took an active role with the EMS board and called for an update to the board’s bylaws.
The intention is to improve communications and services between agencies within the board.
“A lot of our residents are older so they will need services,” said Williams. “More and more people are building on non-building land in isolated areas with fire protection and EMS challenges as well. “
Yet three regional transportation agencies are up to the challenge: Southern Park County Fire and EMS, Southwest Teller County EMS, and Ute Pass Regional Health Service District.
“We are traveling 324 miles to include Florissant, Cripple Creek and Victor,” said Eric Murray, executive director of Southwest Teller County EMS.
From Guffey, under the direction of Chief Eugene Farmer, the ambulance team with Southern Park County Fire and EMS travels 240 miles. “With Southwest Teller, we are called often to go to Fremont County, to High Park Road, and we are a backup for the Four Mile and this area,” Farmer said.
Last week, Farmer’s team transported an injured cyclist to St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City. The cyclist was one of 45 participants in the Great American Bicycle Ride from Coast to Coast.
Due to Guffey’s remote location in Park County, the crews go above and beyond the call of duty. Two years ago, for example, Farmer and his paramedics transported a caller from his home to the hospital in Cañon City.
“One of our firefighters drove the car to the hospital so he had a way home,” Farmer said. “It’s common here. People don’t want to go to the hospital because they are afraid of going home.
Emergency medical technicians and paramedics from Murray’s and Farmer’s crews regularly respond to Paradise Cove, a popular swimming spot in Guffey. “People there will jump 50 feet off a cliff into shallow water,” Murray said. “This generates a lot of calls for him (Farmer), and we will respond if they need advanced life support.”
The Ute Pass Regional Health Services District covers 804 miles to include the Cripple Creek-Victor School District area, in addition to Woodland Park, Divide, and Florissant. “We’re also going into Park County, including Lake George and north into Douglas County in the West Creek area,” said Tim Dienst, district executive director.
The neighborhood has two stations, at Woodland Park and Florissant.
If needed, teams will assist with emergencies at Green Mountain Falls and Chipita Park, which are in neighboring El Paso County.
In addition to responding to medical emergencies, Dienst led the launch of the mental health assessment program for callers with mental health or substance abuse crisis.
“So we bypass the emergency room and take them to a crisis stability unit, drug rehabilitation center or inpatient mental health facility,” Dienst said.
Led by James McLaughlin, the program treats patients upon arrival on site. “We believe that so far we have saved the healthcare system up to $ 3 million because we are treating patients at the right time in the right place for the right reasons,” said Dienst.
For Murray at Southwest, the program is a lifeline. “We don’t have enough call volume to have a program ourselves to fund this,” he said. “So we transfer a patient with mental health issues to them and they transport the patient to the right facilities. “
For patients who were reluctant to come to hospital during last year’s pandemic, Dienst and his team have started a telehealth program. “We brought them the services, where they could see an emergency doctor with a follow-up appointment,” Dienst said. “It was a direct result of COVID. “
Over the next few weeks, The Courier will feature more stories about the people who make up the emergency services system in Teller and Park counties.