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Kent Progresses With EMT Program

By Holly Crocco

The Town of Kent is moving forward with creating a townwide paid EMT program.

Alex Roehner, the town’s new EMS coordinator, has been working the past several weeks to get the program up and running, and provided a status update at the April 16 Kent Town Board meeting.

The town is working to form Town of Kent EMS, in which one rig will be in service 24/7, staffed with two paid EMTs, who will be municipal civil servants with benefits – just like other full-time employees. The Kent and Lark Carmel fire departments will continue to provide services through a “first-response model,” and will provide care and assistance at the scene, but will not be transporting patients.

The town has filed necessary paperwork with the state and is currently working with the Kent Fire District to lease an ambulance from the organization. A central dispatch location is also being determined, to provide the best response time to all residents.

Roehner said the town is trying to make the operation more community-centric and patient-centric. “So, not just pick people up and take them to the hospital,” she said. “We have an opportunity to really connect our community to the resources they need, be proactive, teach about EMS, teach about what people can do for themselves.”

She said the town would like to give people the opportunity to make a career out of becoming an EMT, rising to the rank of supervisor and advanced EMT.

“We want people to come into this and make it a profession,” said Roehner. “A municipal civil servant, retirement… Let’s make this a profession. Let’s make this for people who want to say with us.”

She said she would like to see the program go live by June 1, although that might be ambitious.

Town Supervisor Jaime McGlasson said the town is planning to use $300,000 from its American Recovery Plan Act funding to get the program started. She said a similar program costs the Town of Patterson about $180,000 a year.

“That’s definitely something we can sustain, the $180,000, without creating a tax district,” she said.

Roehner said the town is facing a lack of volunteers within its fire departments, which, coupled with an increase in call volume, has led to an inability to respond to calls. In addition, mutual aid provided from other municipalities has increased, and outside Putnam County agencies are “stepping up their game” to help.

“As you know, volunteerism is down,” she said. “It has been progressively declining year after year, after year. Since COVID, we have lost 25 percent of our volunteers.”

People calling 9-1-1 for reasons outside the normal cardiac issues or breathing difficulties, people living longer and failing to thrive, and a physician shortage at the hospital have all compounded the problem.

According to Roehner, since hospitals are short on physicians, patients are no longer discharged with a care plan and are instead told to just go back to the hospital if they need further care. In addition, nursing home regulations have changed.

“Our nursing home here, they make up 25 percent of our calls – total volume – because their employees cannot pick up the patients,” she said. “There’s no insurance coving them picking up patients, so they call us.”

Roehner said that between Jan. 1, 2022, and Aug. 3, 2023, Kent Fire Department responded to 50 percent of calls dispatched to its department, and Lake Carmel F.D. responded to 35 percent of calls dispatched. Mutual aid from Carmel, Philipstown and Patterson made up 60 percent of total dispatched calls, which is not optimal because it can take up to 40 minutes for mutual aid to arrive.

“We are one of the last towns to go to a paid service,” said Roehner. “We’re starting to realize we need to be autonomous from the county to make this happen.”

She said Carmel Ambulance has three rigs and is expanding its response area to the entire town, including Mahopac and Mahopac Falls; Brewster Ambulance Service is awaiting its second rig and is looking to bring in its own paramedics; Putnam Valley hired Empress to provide EMTs and is considering moving to 24/7 coverage; Garrison and Philipstown have had paid services for years; and Patterson has been a mutual-run EMS agency for years.

Kent Fire District Chairman Barry Sanel said that, other than fine-turning a lease agreement for the district’s ambulance, he is happy to see the program moving forward.

“We’re going to work together,” he said. “We appreciate what Alex is bringing to the board. We think this could work with a paid service.”

He explained that, between the hours needed to train, residents working further away or working multiple jobs, family obligations, and the time it takes to respond to a call, volunteering is a hefty commitment.

“We think having a paid service is going to improve response,” he said. “We will be part of the mutual aid program.”

Sanel said volunteers will still respond to the scene to provide assistance. “We’re very proud of our firefighters and our EMS, and everybody in the Kent Fire Department,” he said. “A lot of people put countless number of hours into us and we are a very proud organization.”

At the April 16 meeting, the Kent Town Board approved the creation of both a full-time and part-time EMT, to get the ball rolling.


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