Bill supported by North Country senator aims to improve lack of emergency medical services in rural NY
Tuesday, July 10, 2018 - 6:12 am

The State Senate recently approved legislation sponsored by Senator Betty Little, R-Queensbury, to help address what she describes as “a growing crisis of insufficient Emergency Medical Services (EMS) coverage in rural regions of New York.”

Little, like many of her upstate colleagues, has heard increasing concern from municipalities and volunteer EMS squads that, due to fewer volunteers, increased training requirements and more people working outside their community, staffing is becoming more challenging, according to a news release from the senator’s office.

“Our EMTs and volunteer firefighters are on the front line and they do an extraordinary job,” Little said in a prepared statement. “However, as many people are aware, there has been a steady decline in the number of people stepping forward to do this challenging work on a voluntary basis.

“Many communities have turned to paid ambulance services, which seems to work well in suburban and urban areas. This legislation would help ‘rural New York’ by making it easier for more small communities to work together. They could coordinate across an entire county, for example, achieving an ‘economy of scale’ by sharing manpower and resources to ensure that rural areas have the coverage they need.”

The legislation would allow municipalities to group together to establish special taxing districts for general ambulance services. Currently, a town or village can create a special district, and can combine with a contiguous community. This legislation would expand the existing state municipal law, allowing municipalities to work with any other county, city, town or village, which Little said appeals to communities she represents, according to the senator’s office.

Additionally, the legislation would require a report by the commissioner of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to identify challenges concerning volunteer emergency services or personnel, Little’s office said.

Little, along with Assembly members Billy Jones, Dan Stec and Carrie Woerner, hosted a meeting last fall with elected officials and EMS coordinators from Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Warren and Washington counties to brainstorm ideas to address the growing problem of providing EMS, Little’s office said.

All four lawmakers are sponsoring this legislation, which passed the Senate with unanimous support on Wednesday, June 13.