In an effort to improve access to emergency services throughout the county, the Jefferson County Commission recently approved the purchase of ambulances and equipment using more than $4 million from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Read on to learn more about how the new ambulances and equipment will be used to improve emergency response time in Jefferson County.
The need for new EMS equipment in Jefferson County
For those of us living in or near metro areas of Jefferson County, it’s easy to take for granted our access to emergency services. However, it’s a different story for residents in rural, unincorporated parts of the county. With limited equipment and a huge area to cover, rural emergency services departments are stretched thin.
“We’ve sat on scene for over five hours with a patient that was in a diabetic coma, because we could not get anybody out to transport him to the hospital. It’s obviously been very frustrating for the patient and their family, because they don’t understand why we can’t get their loved one to the hospital. But it’s also been tough on my guys, who have to sit with a patient they know needs to go to a hospital but are unable to get them there.”Wade Holley, Fire Chief, Birmingport Fire Department
Unfortunately, getting new emergency services equipment is neither fast nor inexpensive. Since a single emergency vehicle can cost upwards of six figures, departments are often stuck using their old, unreliable equipment.
“Our ambulances are old, and just like with any kind of vehicle, the older they get the more maintenance they require. We provide emergency medical services for most of Western Jefferson County, so reliability is a huge need for our department.”Wayne Weaver, Deputy Chief, Concord Fire Department
Jefferson County Commission purchases ambulances, equipment for unincorporated Jefferson County
Utilizing the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, the Jefferson County Commission approved the purchase of 13 ambulances, equipped with stretchers, stair chairs and radio systems. The equipment will be distributed to and utilized by transport capable departments with demonstrated needs.
“Simply put, this equipment is going to save lives, reduce response time and get medical service to people who need it in a timely manner. These unincorporated communities deserve the same access to quality care as the areas that reside inside a municipality in Jefferson County. The Jefferson County Commission is dedicated to improving quality of life for its residents and to making sure that access to emergency services in Jefferson County is as equitable as possible.”James A. “Jimmie” Stephens, Commission President, Jefferson County Commission
Once purchased, the Jefferson County Commission will distribute the ambulances, equipment and accessories as follows:
- Bagley Fire and Rescue — 1 Truck 1 additional stretcher
- Birmingport Fire District — 1 Truck
- Center Point Fire District — 2 Trucks
- Concord Fire District — 2 Trucks
- McAdory Fire District 1 — Truck 1 additional stretcher
- Palmerdale Fire District — 2 Trucks
- Rex Lake Fire District — 1 Truck
- Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency — 3 Reserve Trucks
In addition, the Jefferson County Commission will be providing stretchers and other equipment to the Forestdale Fire District, the City of Helena and the City of Warrior to outfit ambulances they have recently purchased or are purchasing.
“This equipment is a big investment, but you can’t put a price tag on a life. The impact of saving just one life would be huge, but this equipment is going to help save a lot of lives in this county. Before, we worried every time we got a call. Is this patient going to be critical? If so, how are we going to get them to the hospital? These resources give us the peace of mind to know that we have options.”Wade Holley, Fire Chief, Birmingport Fire Department
How these resources will affect residents in Jefferson County
According to Wayne Weaver—Deputy Chief of the Concord Fire Department—the gift of ambulances and equipment could not have come at a better time.
“With the price of everything going up, the fact that we’re getting new, state-of-the-art equipment is so important. Our department would never have been able to afford this on our own. We’re looking forward to getting this equipment on the road to provide our citizens with the care they need.”Wayne Weaver, Deputy Chief, Concord Fire Department
The new, reliable equipment will give emergency medical services around the county the tools they desperately need to save lives.
“For us, the biggest improvement is that if we have a critical patient, we don’t have to wait or come up with an outside-of-the-box method to get the patient to the hospital. In our line of work, time is life—if we can get our patients to the hospital in a quick manner we have a much better chance of keeping them alive.”Wade Holley, Fire Chief, Birmingport Fire Department
Jefferson County has received $127 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, which stipulates that the funds must be obligated by the end of 2024 and expended by the end of 2026. In addition to supporting emergency medical services in unincorporated parts of the county, the Jefferson County Commission has allocated:
- $4M to mental health and substance abuse support
- $13M for household support programs
- $45M for clean water and storm water projects