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Warren County turns down EMS proposals to aid rural towns

Warren County turns down EMS proposals to aid rural towns

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Sheriff speaks

Warren County Sheriff Bud York, center, speaks during a meeting Tuesday to discuss how to deal with emergency medical service response problems in the county.

QUEENSBURY — Warren County leaders are “going back to the drawing board” to try to solve the problems plaguing emergency medical response in parts of the county.

County supervisors on Tuesday rejected two formal proposals from rescue squads in the county to provide service in towns where response times are lagging, and also opted not to go with a new system suggested by the county Office of Emergency Services.

Empire Ambulance and Johnsburg Rescue Squad had responded to requests by the county for services to help squads in other communities, generally in the northern part of the county, that have had problems. Empire is a private squad that has an office in Glens Falls and provides mutual aid to squads in the region.

A number of squads have dealt with declines in volunteers and a lack of emergency medical technicians to fill shifts, a problem that has been found across the country.

The Office of Emergency Services’ proposal would have supplemented rescue squads with county-paid personnel and equipment.

The Board of Supervisors Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee discussed the issue hours after hearing from the board’s budget officer that the county needs to cut its spending to avoid burning through its savings in the coming years.

“The money was the main factor,” said Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Ron Montesi, who chairs the county Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee. “It’s not workable for us. We’re going to go back to the drawing board.”

Montesi said all three proposals would have cost the county between $800,000 to $1 million in the first year.

The committee instead decided to reach out to the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, which runs an emergency medical response program in some towns in the county, generally the rural “hilltowns” around Albany, to see if Warren County can do something similar.

The Albany County Sheriff’s Office has an “emergency medical response unit” that has been in operation since 1995 to assist six towns in the county with EMTs and equipment.

Warren County Sheriff Bud York said he spoke with his counterpart in Albany, Sheriff Craig Apple, who told him that the program overseen by the Sheriff’s Office in Albany County provides service in rural areas as well as suburban enclaves such as Bethlehem, and is “budget-neutral” for the county as it relies on town payments and revenue from billing patients.

Communities that don’t want to opt in for the assistance aren’t required to, York said.

“They have a system and it works very well,” York said. “To me, it seems like a workable thing to do.”

Amy Hirsch, the county’s deputy director of emergency services, said Warren County can learn from the experiences of Albany County and others across the state that are dealing with EMS response problems.

“There are a ton of counties going through exactly what we are going through,” Hirsch said.

The committee plans to meet with Apple in the coming months to discuss how the program got off the ground.

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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