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Faces: Crosslake man acts on his desire to help people

David Demcho of Crosslake has served 20 years as a nationally certified EMT and 20 years on the Crosslake Fire Department, and his desire to help people is still expanding.

David grew up in St. Anthony. He worked as a printer for several printing companies in the Twin Cities area before the Crosslake area caught his eye. In the mid-1980s he and his wife, Katie, bought a cabin in Crosslake.

“In the late ‘80s I talked my wife into moving up here and I commuted,” David said. He then moved to the area in 1992.

Shortly after moving to the area David joined the Crosslake Fire Department.

“It was just to help the community out. They were in need of firefighters and I was available,” he said.

The first class the fire department put David through was first responding.

“The first class scared me, but after that I loved it,” he said. “It wasn’t just putting Band-Aids on people, it was real life, major medical issues or injuries to people that we would be taking care of before the ambulance got there.”

David became a trustee and then president of the Fire Relief Association, which handles the retirement fund for the firefighters. He completed numerous educational courses and became a captain for the fire department.

“That’s a huge commitment to be on a fire department,” he said.

After David became a first responder, he went on to get his EMT certification through North Memorial Ambulance in 1993. He was recently recognized by the National Registry of Emergency Technicians (NREMT) for being a nationally certified EMT for 20 consecutive years.

“The National Registry holds stricter education guidelines than the state does, so that’s a benefit to me for my knowledge. I’ve got more pounded into me,” he said.

This accomplishment highlights David’s continued desire to continue learning, something that didn’t stop after he became an EMT.

“I wasn’t satisfied with the EMT level, I wanted to do more for the patients,” David said.

He went through a year of full-time classes to become a paramedic in 1995. Once he got his paramedic certification, David began working full time for North Memorial Ambulance.

His motivation for being a firefighter, first responder, EMT and paramedic is simple.

“I’ve always had a liking to help people,” David said.

David’s newest certification and involvement is with Minnesota’s community paramedic program. In April 2011, Minnesota passed legislation establishing certification guidelines for community paramedics.

“I heard about it, I followed the legislation, I was watching all the boring legislation TV shows,” David said. “As soon as that legislation passed I got involved in the class.”

David was one of the first 12 individuals in the nation to be certified as a community paramedic.

Community paramedics have a different focus than traditional paramedics who respond to emergencies. They go out to the patient’s homes and are trained in doing a physician’s assessment.

“When we deal with the patients as a community paramedic we are looking at the patient’s overall health and seeing the insides of their homes and communicating to their doctors what’s going on in their life that maybe the doctor didn’t catch,” David said.

“Maybe they’re not instructed properly about their medication use or they can’t afford their medication and they don’t want to tell the doctors,” he said.

Community paramedics can help fill the gaps caused by funding cuts to hospitals and fewer doctors in rural areas.

“There are not enough doctors in the state or the country,” he said.

David said many doctors going through school now are getting into specialized care areas that are more lucrative.

“The family practice physicians are a very hurting resource right now,” he added.

David hopes that community paramedics can supplement and support doctors.

“We’re not looking to take anybody’s job. We’re looking to find the gaps and fill the gaps where health care is needed,” David said.

“The community paramedic program, what it does is it makes us an extension of a physician’s arm,” he added.

David explained that community paramedics can help educate individuals and connect elderly and underprivileged patients with health care resources they might not know about. This type of care is intended to prevent emergency medical situations and hospital readmissions.

Doctors would initiate contact between a community paramedic and a patient, and the community paramedic would report findings to the patient’s doctor.

Right now David is focused on making connections with area doctors to get a local program in place.

Minnesota has some of the first legislation for community paramedics, and it is the only state that has established payer, Medical Assistance, for the community paramedics, David said, noting eyes across the nation are watching how the community paramedic program fares in Minnesota.

“If we don’t do this right it will never come back,” he said.

Besides advocating for community paramedics and his work as a firefighter, EMT and first responder, David enjoys hunting and fishing. He and his wife, Katie, have four daughters and soon will have 12 grandchildren.