Payette EMS provider awarded as rural health hero

Idaho Rural Health Association President Dr. Mary Barinaga, left, presents a 2018 Idaho Rural Health Hero Award to Travis Spencer of Payette County Paramedics.

Travis Spencer, of Payette Paramedics, was one of eight Idaho health-care professionals to receive an Idaho Rural Health Hero Award at this year’s annual meeting and awards reception for Idaho Rural Health Association on Nov. 7.

The awards are given a week before National Rural Health Day in Idaho (Nov. 15 this year), according to a news release from the association. They recognize rural health educators, community advocates, health-care providers and program administrators who demonstrate outstanding service and dedication to rural communities. Nominations described the many contributions of this year’s awardees as advocates, communicators, educators, collaborators and innovators.

Spencer is described, in the release, as a true champion for innovative rural health service delivery in Payette County. He was nominated as an Idaho Rural Health Hero because of his dedication to training as a Community Health EMS provider and to working with patients.

Spencer truly believes in the CHEMS model of care as a mechanism for reducing access barriers for vulnerable populations in rural areas. He’s an advocate for meeting people where they are to help manage their health before the need for emergency transport and hospitalization. Spencer is a remarkable community member who is innovative, dedicated and an advocate for his neighbors and patients.

“We must continue to evaluate the needs of rural communities and work together to meet those needs. The ‘heart’ of rural communities provides hope that they can conquer just about any issue,” said Spencer in the release.

Rural Idaho faces challenges in being able to improve access given limited financial support, according to Spencer. Rural counties continue to lose health-care providers to more populated areas, so programs must be developed to compensate for this.

Community Health EMS is a new concept that has sprung up around the country. It uses emergency responders to provide care in a non- emergent setting and assists patients with their health and social determinants.

As a flight paramedic and member of the Payette County tactical response team, Spencer also teaches future community EMTs at Idaho State University in Meridian.

He has spent the last two years developing and implementing the Community Health EMS program for Payette County, and watched it spread to Washington, Gem and Owyhee counties.

Spencer believes the most rewarding part about working in rural health is the ability to bring programs and opportunities into the community that you wouldn’t normally see. This results in improvements in delivery and access of health care.

It also brings the community together to help each other and shows that they care about and value each person within their community, Spencer says.

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