WATERVILLE — Providing meals and critical health care to the city’s most vulnerable residents was the focus of Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, with fire officials pitching a program to ensure they get the medical help they need, and others pleading with councilors to help fund food programs that are stretched financially.

The council took the first of two votes needed to accept a $100,000 state grant to help fund a community paramedicine program that would provide health care services to those who live on the streets, struggle with substance abuse disorder or deal with other issues, according to Chief Shawn Esler and Deputy Chief Everett Flannery of the Waterville Fire Department.

The idea is to help people who are discharged from emergency departments or inpatient facilities and are at high risk for health problems, to ensure they are OK until they follow up with a doctor or in-home health services.

The Fire Department is partnering with Northern Light Inland Hospital on the program, which is also intended to help reduce the number of ambulance calls and visits to overwhelmed emergency departments.

Advanced emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics would go to people’s homes, as well as places such as Head of Falls and the Waterville Area Soup Kitchen two days a week and provide wound care, which is a big issue with the homeless, according to Flannery. They could provide a variety of services, including assess people’s health needs, draw blood, check blood sugar levels and blood pressure, for instance.

“We want to see these patients be successful on their own,” Flannery said, “and not necessarily be a burden on city services.”


Since Jan. 1, rescue workers have gone to Head of Falls 43 times, with about a dozen of the calls for overdoses and the rest for medical or trauma complaints, according to Flannery.

Councilors voted 7-0 to accept $100,000 from the Maine Department of Public Safety and another $50,000 from a private donor to help fund the pilot project. The vote also authorizes City Manager Bryan Kaenrath to petition the state for a license to operate the program. The council must take a second vote.

Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, said there is significant need for the program, and he hopes it becomes self-sustaining and expands to beyond just two days a week.

“I think this kind of community care is long, long overdue,” he said.

Klepach asked if MaineGeneral Health would become involved, to which officials said they approached Northern Light because it is the only inpatient hospital in Waterville, but if the pilot program kicks off, they would be open to referral services for MaineGeneral, too.

“We believe that this program will be very successful,” Esler said.


The funding would help the city buy a vehicle equipped to carry medical equipment and radios, and provide overtime for rescue workers.

Councilors also voted Tuesday to award a contract with Enterprise Fleet Management for the lease and management of five Chevrolet Tahoes for the Police Department, with the first payment to be $54,365. Funding will come from the vehicle replacement fund for this year, which totals $56,100.

Police Maj. Josh Woods said the department has seven marked cruisers shared among patrol officers, and when the department is at full staff, seven officers work in the afternoon. A vehicle or two is usually down for service or repair, leaving some officers without a vehicle, which has created a morale issue, he said.

Enterprise is to take the department’s three oldest vehicles, sell them on the department’s behalf and return the money to a reserve account for future purchases, Woods said. Enterprise will also monitor maintenance costs of vehicles, miles driven and recommend a replacement schedule.

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