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County officials talk Forest County EMS situation

With no state-wide solution to EMS challenges across the state, municipalities are seeking varying solutions on their own.

In Warren County, the predominant response has been the creation of a multi-municipal EMS commission that seeks to contract for paid ambulance service between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays with volunteers handling the rest.

Municipalities in the eastern part of Forest County have come up with a different approach and Warren County officials discussed that model during Wednesday’s COG meeting.

COG chair Paul Pascuzzi said that those municipalities in Forest County are working on creating an authority.

“Today, if you’re in Marienville and you need an ambulance,” he said, “it might take you 43 minutes to get an ambulance.”

They’ve created an EMS authority that will implement assessments to business owners, nursing homes, residences and camps in the area of $100 to cover the cost of providing EMS services.

“In the spring of 2023 an ambulance was provided by a grant received from the Forest County Commissioners,” the Forest EMS Authority said in a Facebook post. ” In addition to the ambulance we also have some donated equipment. Upon receipt of the unit, a group of volunteers, being current Township Supervisors, joined together to form the Forest EMS Authority.

“The Forest EMS Authority’s goal and purpose is to provide emergency medical service to the four participating townships – Jenks, Farmington, Howe and half of Greene Township.”

They say the unit will be housed in Leeper and service hours are planned to run 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. The ambulance, per the plan, would be manned by a paid service provider.”

Funds needed to ensure the success and efficiency of this service will be approximately $550,000 per year,” the authority says. “The amount being assessed is the very minimum the Forest EMS Authority could charge in order to provide this much needed community service.

“Although donations have been received, the only way the board saw to raise adequate funds was to have a property assessment fee. This fee was not determined hastily. There was a lot of thought, consideration and research to arrive at this amount. This fee is mandatory. The appeal mentioned on the assessment fee bill is to appeal category, not participation.”

Pascuzzi said those assessments went out last week.

“They hosted a town hall meeting to explain this,” he said. “I heard it did not go quite well.”

Youngsville Borough Councilman Troy Clawson outlined that the COG supported a bill in the General Assembly that would permit the creation of EMS authorities “with no questions of legality.”

“It’s an unfunded mandate but a need that needs to be paid for,” he added.

Could such an authority model be how Warren County officials have to look to fund EMS in the future?

“At some point in time, years down the road, we’re looking at what’s the fastest way to pay for this,” Pascuzzi said.

That solution now is the commission’s member municipalities paying for coverage during the day and volunteers covering nights and weekends.

“It’s kind of an interesting twist,” Pascuzzi said of the current commission model.

He speculated, though, that the nights and weekends being handled by volunteers is something that probably won’t work in 15 years.

“At least Warren County is talking about it and discussing it openly,” he said.

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