A program to help older adults and those with disabilities stay in their homes earned the Upper Arlington Fire Division recognition as Ohio's EMS Agency of the Year by the Ohio Department of Public Safety's Division of EMS.

In April 2009, the division launched a pilot program called Services to Age in Your Upper Arlington in which it partnered with employees of National Church Residences to connect residents in need with support services.

Through STAY UA, the city's EMS personnel identify residents who could benefit from instruction on how to pay utility bills online, or who might need access to resources that could prevent future emergency situations. Residents are then connected with NCR employees who provide the assistance or help link them to needed services.

The Upper Arlington Fire Division was selected from more than 1,300 eligible agencies.

In bestowing the award, the Division of Emergency Services called STAY UA an "innovative program designed to bridge the gap between pre-hospital emergent medical care and meeting the long-term needs of an often neglected segment of the community."

The agency also said the program links residents who call 911 with community support services that "they truly need once it is determined that they do not require medical care."

"It is believed to be the first formalized program of its kind in the country," the Division of Emergency Services said on the Ohio EMS website. "This innovative model demonstrates how EMS can be a solution to the health care crisis by providing access to more appropriate healthcare and social services for those that do not need emergency care."

According to Ohio EMS, STAY UA has assisted more than 800 residents and families.

"This vital service provided to the Upper Arlington community has resulted in immediate and cost-effective improvements to their quality of life and the ability to remain safely in their homes," the Ohio EMS website states.

Deputy Chief Mark Zambito said some residents, particularly older adults, have benefitted from being linked to transportation resources, assistance in paying bills or shopping for groceries.

"It's nonmedical, and with service coordinators from National Church Residences, we help them with everyday things," he said. "Our firefighter-paramedics, when they're on-scene, have done a great job of being able to determine when this service is needed."

Zambito said STAY UA provided services approximately 380 times in 2016.

"We want them to be able to stay in their homes comfortably, but the world's changing around them," he said. "We're helping them manage that."

The award was presented during the state division's 2017 EMS Star of Life awards ceremony May 24.