Legislators, Fire Service Leaders, and Mayors Pledge to Help Fire Departments Provide Emergency Medical Services
Enable fire departments to improve response times and level of service – at no cost to the taxpayers.
State Senators Betty Little, Pam Helming, and John Brooks and State Assemblymember Billy Jones joined representatives from the state's largest fire service organizations and the New York Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials (NYCOM) in Albany, NY on January 22, 2018, to call on the Legislature to support a bill that would alleviate an affordability crisis impacting fire departments across New York state. Providing emergency medical services (EMS) can place a severe strain on fire departments, and fire departments are the only EMS providers in New York state currently prohibited from recovering any of the associated costs.
This legislation (S. 0363A / A. 7717A) is sponsored by Senator Little and Assemblymember Jones and is a bipartisan effort to provide parity among New York's EMS providers. Much of the ambulance coverage in New York state is provided by fire departments, many of which are smaller and staffed with volunteers. These fire departments are responding to an ever-growing volume of medical calls, with many now handling more EMS than fire runs. Staffing an ambulance requires a significant investment in personnel, equipment, training, and time, and this investment is causing an affordability crisis in the fire service.
This legislation provides a simple solution. It allows fire departments to recover the costs of running EMS calls without raising any taxes. One source of untapped funds is patients' already-existing healthcare policies. The money recovered would be used to ensure that ambulances can continue to operate with sufficient staffing and be available whenever they are needed, while also enhancing the level of emergency medical services available in the community.
Every other ambulance provider in New York state is already permitted to do this. Fire departments are the only ones who are not, and this legislation would place the various providers on equal footing. Equally important, it would help provide support for many small fire departments that so often serve as the backbone of many towns and villages across the State.
The passage of this legislation would give some much-needed financial assistance to many of the state's departments, while also likely yielding improved response times and service for New Yorkers – and at no cost to the taxpayer.
“Emergency medical services is one of the core missions performed by many fire departments,” said President John Sroka of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs. “EMS calls require a significant investment in time, training, and personnel, and it is critical that fire departments are able to recover the associated costs, just as every other EMS provider in New York state already can.”
“There are many volunteer departments across the state facing the very real possibility of having to discontinue providing emergency medical services,” said President Kenneth Pienkowski of the Firemen's Association of the State of New York. “These calls are simply too expensive and too frequent for many small departments to provide. We are grateful to State Senator Betty Little and Assemblymember Billy Jones for introducing this legislation, which will provide much needed help to these departments, while also improving the level of service New Yorkers can expect.”
“This is a very real problem, but with a very simple solution,” said President Tom Rinaldi of the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York. “Allowing fire departments to recover the costs of EMS calls does not involve any new taxes, and utilizes existing health insurance policies. The cost is minimal for New Yorkers, and the benefit is much greater.”
“Fire departments serve as the backbone of villages, cities and towns across the state,” said James Miccio, mayor of Fishkill and president of the New York Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials. “In a time of decreased volunteerism and increased responsibilities, it is critical that these departments have every available tool to provide New Yorkers with the highest possible level of service. This legislation will help ensure that ambulances arrive when needed and in a timely fashion, while relieving the pressure on municipal budgets."
“This is a serious issue of growing concern in my North Country Senate District as I know it is for many other similar communities across New York state,” said State Senator and bill sponsor Betty Little (R-45). “We're blessed to have incredible volunteer firefighters who, at a moment's notice, will put their professional and personal lives on hold to run to help someone in need, including providing life-saving emergency medical services. It's a tremendous calling of public service. Over the years, we've seen a decline in the number of people willing to step forward, placing a greater strain on those who continue to serve. This legislation is meant to help those who go above and beyond to help others.”
“Ensuring North Country residents have readily available access to ambulance services in an emergency situation is crucial,” said Assemblymember and bill sponsor Billy Jones (D-115). “The passage of this legislation will yield improved response times and coverage, thus improving the safety of all New Yorkers.“