Small City Impacted by Public Safety AT Care

March 8, 2021 by Claire Higgins

Hiring athletic trainers to care for local public safety departments is gaining momentum in cities across the U.S. Because of the support and funding necessary to incorporate athletic training services into government budgets, finding their place in smaller communities to provide care might be intimidating to ATs. 

But, after five years working with the Sidney, Ohio, public safety department, Woody Goffinett, MBA, ATC, EMT-P, can show that even small cities that invest in athletic training services will see the value and cost savings that an accessible AT provides. The value he’s tracked and now promotes is a collaboration that is mutually beneficial to the city, other local health care providers and the athletic training profession.

“Hopefully, by producing values on both the public safety department side and on the athletic training side, we’re saying that this is worth taking that next step in offering full-time athletic training service in the public safety realm,” Goffinett said.

Since 2016, Goffinett’s goal has been to show enough value to make athletic training services a higher priority in public safety. With more than 2,000 treatments provided for police officers, firefighters, dispatchers, employee family members and other police and fire personnel over five years, Goffinett’s service is valued at $887,000, not including time loss or labor saved.

Due to this success, which he said has been met with “ecstatic” response from city officials, police officers and firefighters, Goffinett recently assigned an athletic trainer to treat firefighters on a part-time basis. He has also continued to increase the investment from the city, police union and the local hospital in athletic training services, resulting in more access, equipment and trust.

As opposed to other public safety ATs, who are employed by their respective cities, Goffinett’s athletic training service with Sidney is a partnership between the city and Wilson Health, an independent hospital. Goffinett organized this partnership when he signed onto to manage outreach for the sports medicine department in 2010.

In addition to the city’s police and fire departments, Goffinett manages 14 full-time ATs who serve area schools and the county YMCA.

With a population of just over 21,000, the Sidney Police Department employs 36 sworn officers and 10 dispatch employees and 35 uniformed fire department employees are employed between two stations. Goffinett, who serves as the public safety AT, provides part-time services offering daily appointments Monday through Friday, emergency response and acts as an occupational health liaison and orthopedic physician liaison.

With experience in tactical medicine and public safety, Goffinett immediately saw the value ATs could bring to police and fire departments, beyond simply ensuring healthier first responders. For him, investing in athletic training services in public safety was a community effort that could be valuable for community growth.

“Here is a way,” he said. “The hospital can be a community partner, the City of Sidney can be a community partner and both mutually benefit by offering additional services.”

In addition to tracking valuation and services provided to the city and police unions, Goffinett also tracks the return on investment for Wilson Health. Over five years, referrals to the hospital or its medical group equaled 162 in-network out of 202 total referrals. The past two years, Goffinett’s services netted 96 percent in-network referrals.

When referred outside of Wilson Health, Goffinett said the majority of out-of-network referrals were to local chiropractic providers or sub-specialty orthopedic providers. By collaborating with other local allied health providers to ensure quality patient care, Goffinett is increasing awareness of athletic training in the community, and showing the AT’s important role in the continuum of care – and their ability to work together.

“Ultimately, [adding athletic training services to the public safety department] results in better patient care, personal growth, growth in the profession and growth in your communities,” he said.

By prioritizing health care for Sidney’s public safety department, Goffinett has strengthened the relationship between athletic trainers and police officers, firefighters, city officials, Wilson Health and the community.

He said understanding the culture of public safety employees is a major part of the success. Not only does showing value in money and time saved for the city make an impact, but Goffinett has seen shifts in the patients as well.

“They didn’t know they needed you, but once you’re there, they never want to let you go,” he said about the response from police officers and firefighters. “They want support, too.”

Although the first step to a conversation about adding athletic training services to a local public safety department might be daunting, Goffinett said to start by showing the value ATs have provided in other cities as well as showing there is a knowledge of public safety culture and community needs.

“We’re all working for the same team – don’t be afraid to make a phone call,” he said. “Ask, show and work together to work toward the same goal.”

For more information and resources on athletic training in public safety, visit the NATA Public Safety webpage. Don’t forget to also follow along with NATA’s National Athletic Training Month coverage and exclusive resources for members on showing that AT’s are essential to health care. Visit the NATM webpage for all the details.