The Salvation Army and University of South Florida partner to reduce non-emergency ambulance calls in Tampa area
By: Brad Rowland
The Salvation Army and the University of South Florida’s College of Nursing recently launched an innovative partnership in the Tampa area. The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Center houses approximately 160 men and women on a daily basis and, before this alliance emerged, between two and three non-emergency medical service calls were placed each day. This partnership aims to alleviate that burden, and early results indicate a decline of non-emergency medical service calls by more than 80 percent.
The program, launched in 2022, provides the opportunity for individuals to prioritize their health through free health education, care coordination, resources, assessments, and transportation to medical visits. USF assistant professor LaTiena Williams is a key piece of the burgeoning collaboration.
“Now clients come to me first and I am usually able to assist them without the need to call 911,” Williams said. “This program has taken a strain off of our county’s first responders and allows them to focus on serious emergencies.”
“Education is prevention,” Williams continued. “Even if someone is a lawyer, it does not mean they are health literate. When we educate the public and community, that’s where a lot of diagnoses are found.”
The pact was cultivated by Elle Kane, The Salvation Army’s director of social services, over approximately nine months before implementation.
“The partnership between The Salvation Army and USF College of Nursing has been a game changer for our community,” said Kane. “Our homeless population finally has a chance to receive medical attention with this partnership that will put them on the right path for better health outcomes leading to self-sufficiency and permanent housing.”
Other agencies, including BayCare Community Health, have come alongside The Salvation Army and the University of South Florida to provide resources. In addition, on-site vaccination clinics and mobile health units are in use, with the program also bringing valuable experience to students and others involved in the program.
Mary Zent, a recent university graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, is a shining example. Zent serves as a volunteer in post-graduation and shares positive experiences with the work being accomplished.
“It was eye opening to see some of the healthcare issues that our homeless population faces, especially on such a local level,” said Zent. “It helped bridge what we are learning with the real impact we can have in our community.”
Growth opportunities are also present for the partnership, including the implementation of an on-call doctor and volunteers for the program. This projects to further bolster the program, but the impact on the health of individuals is clear and positive, even over only a short period of time.