Police Department, Hospital Partner for Police-Paramedic Program

The Winnemucca Police Department and Humboldt General Hospital are debuting a program that not only will save lives, but could serve as a model for similar partnerships across the nation.

The Winnemucca Police-Paramedic Program will utilize the skills of police officers, who are also paramedics, to first respond to medical emergencies in the community.

Local law enforcement officers already respond first to emergencies in the community, initiating CPR or AED use as required.

"But with a paramedic," said HGH EMS Rescue Director Pat Songer, "advanced care can begin right away without waiting for an ambulance."

Songer arrived at the idea for the new program after HGH paramedic Brant Manley decided to pursue a career with the police department.

Manley, who spent 2.5 years with HGH EMS, was initially training as a reserve police officer in order to join the hospital's Tactical Emergency Medical Services Team.

That team of paramedics responds to high-risk situations alongside law enforcement officers in order to provide immediate life saving care.

However, Manley enjoyed his training so much that he spoke with Winnemucca Chief of Police Eric Silva about joining the force full time.

A short time later, Songer approached Chief Silva about partnering to create Nevada's first police-paramedic program, and only one of a handful of similar programs across the nation.

It was an easy sell for the chief, who had already initiated some discussions with Songer about training officers as EMTs.

"Our focus is on saving lives," said Chief Silva, "that is our priority. So this sounded like a good idea, a great life-saving program."

Songer said the hospital supports an Advanced Life Support (ALS) system, which means its first two ambulances out have at least one paramedic on board. But a third-out ambulance is manned by volunteers, which naturally equates to longer response times.

"Our response is still within national standards," said Songer, "but having a paramedic first responder will mean quicker response times and a medic at the scene."

Plus, Songer said Manley will have the ability to arrive on scene faster in a cruiser than an ambulance. "So this works out regardless of who's on the ambulance," he said.

Manley is the first police-paramedic in Winnemucca, but officials from both organizations said he won't be the last. Winnemucca Reserve Police Officer Jody Marvel is currently training to become a paramedic. Once licensed, he too will join the program.

"It's just a great way for us to leverage time, resources, efforts and opportunities into what we know will be better pre-hospital care for our community," said HGH CEO/Administrator Jim Parrish.

"That investment puts a paramedic to a patient quicker," he added.

The hospital has made a sizeable investment in the program in terms of equipment and training; HGH will continue to train and monitor Manley as one of their paramedics as well as allocate supplies and equipment as needed.

The police department, for its part, will also continue to invest in the program by financially supporting Manley's position as well as others who wish to train for the dual job.

One of the police department's Crown Victoria cruisers has been retrofitted for the program. The outside of the car includes reflective "paramedic" signage. Inside, the car includes everything a paramedic on an ambulance would use in terms of life-saving equipment, supplies and drugs with some slight modifications.

"We included those drugs that would be most applicable to what I'll be doing," said Manley, "such as diabetes or cardiac drugs."

He added, "Just about anything I run across, I can get care started. I can get a patient ready for when the ambulance comes."

Manley, who has been in his new position for about a month, has already responded to nearly a dozen life-threatening emergencies where his skills as a paramedic were immediately required.

Chief Silva said those calls have never been to the exclusion of non-medical calls.

Manley is a police officer first and a paramedic second, said the chief, "but we don't anticipate any conflicts with the program since our officers already routinely arrive at medical scenes first."

Songer added, "This is a great collaboration, a great partnership. We are seeing such good things from this relationship, and think this will continue to be beneficial to our community while providing a model for other communities who want to leverage their resources in the same way."