UF HealthStreet partners with local fire department for community health initiative

Published: May. 3, 2019 at 6:27 PM EDT
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First responders at one North Central Florida fire department are forging a partnership with the University of Florida to teach new skills.

Kayvon Yazdanbakhsh is a Public Health student UF and has been volunteering at the Melrose Volunteer Fire Department for almost a year.

"Unlike anything else you do in school absolutely, I don't think anyone gets the patient contact maturity and stressful situations as you do as a volunteer," stated Yazdanbakhsh.

It was the first trip to his advisor's office that presented a new opportunity.

"I had my jacket on and we just started talking about the opioid crisis, health disparities and I said hey our fire department serves a very disparaged area, Melrose is particularly underserved," stated Yazdanbakhsh.

UF HealthStreet founder, Linda Cottler ended up being Yazdanbakhsh's advisor and says it turned out to be a great match.

"He had also heard about the work we do at UF HealthStreet and so we started to think about ways that we could really engage the fire rescue people with the work that we're doing at HealthsStreet," stated Cottler.

Since then, the two groups have joined forces to train off-duty firefighters to become certified community health workers.

"Community health workers are individuals who are trained to go out into the community, assess people needs and the areas needs and make plans to bring resources to the area to address those needs," stated Yazdanbakhsh.

It's just one way to help decrease the volume of 9-1-1 calls.

"I think it's exciting that a fire department has CHW's on their roster, to our knowledge its the first time a fire department in this area has done it, especially one as small as us," stated Yazdanbakhsh.

While it's just a pilot program, Cottler says that HealthStreet has reached out to other local fire rescue crews with hopes to move into other areas.