lue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) has invested $1 million with the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) to help fund associate degree programs in Emergency Medical Science (EMS) at five community colleges across the state.
South Piedmont Community College was selected as one of the five community colleges to receive special funding through this investment. According to Dr. Maria Pharr, President of South Piedmont Community College, “South Piedmont joins the NC Community College system in expressing our gratitude to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina for their investment and support.”
The investment will address health care needs across North Carolina including the opioid epidemic, by supporting student academic success, faculty recruitment, retention and professional development; and state-of the-art equipment and technology, such as simulation manikins that give students real-time feedback.
Like much of the country, North Carolina has seen dramatic increases in addiction and overdose rates in recent years. Since 2010, deaths resulting from heroin overdoses in North Carolina increased 884 percent. The dramatic increase in overdoses emphasizes the importance of adequately trained and sufficiently resourced emergency medical personnel.
“We want to ensure access to quality emergency medical care for all North Carolinians, and that starts with training the next generation of first responders,” said Patrick Conway, MD, President and CEO of Blue Cross NC. “This investment will provide students with required resources and technology necessary for academic success.”
The investment aims to specifically target combating the opioid epidemic in the state’s most distressed areas, based on statewide data. These areas have some of the highest unintentional opioid deaths in the state. The five colleges awarded the funding are Brunswick, Lenoir, Rockingham, South Piedmont and Wilkes. The investment will:
• Support advanced coursework for EMS faculty, with a focus on targeting best practices for patient treatment, clinician safety, and understanding of the opioid crisis – both in safety for health care providers and safety for patients.
• Replace outdated training equipment and technology, including low and high-fidelity manikins, to expand opportunities for clinical practice.
• Expand funding for subject matter expert tutors, simulation lab faculty and student scholarships and emergency funds.
Health professionals that train in rural and underserved settings are more likely to choose to practice and remain in such settings. Community colleges provide affordable educational opportunities for persons living in these geographic areas, allowing students to remain close to home while pursuing a degree, and offer rewarding career opportunities for graduates once they complete their education.
Annually, the NCCCS provides education and training for the majority of Registered Nurses (RNs), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), and EMS personnel in North Carolina. Over the past eight years, the NCCCS has had 45,412 emergency medical technicians (EMTs), 6,749 Advanced EMTs, and 16,346 paramedics enrolled in EMS programs.
About South Piedmont Community College
Founded in 1999, South Piedmont Community College is North Carolina’s newest community college. Serving students in Anson and Union Counties in south central North Carolina, South Piedmont has locations in Monroe, Polkton, and Wadesboro. South Piedmont serves nearly 10,000 students through its full complement of university transfer and career-technical programs, including degree-granting and short-term workforce training, adult high school and community-service programming, and business and industry support. Through a focus on learning, student success, and workforce and community development, South Piedmont aims to prepare students to be productive citizens in the global community.
About the NC Community College System
With 58 colleges across the state, the North Carolina Community College System is the third-largest such system in the United States. It educates about 700,000 students through degree, diploma and certificate programs, and helps workers acquire or upgrade skills through continuing education. The system assists with economic development by providing customized training to new and expanding businesses and helping small businesses grow. Community colleges also help adults without a high school diploma to complete their education and acquire the skills needed to enter college or start a career.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) improves the health and well-being of our customers and communities by providing innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.8 million members, including approximately 1.1 million served on behalf of other Blue Plans. Since 1933, we have worked to make North Carolina a better place to live through our support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.