Jefferson County to take over Guilfoyle dispatching

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 6:01 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Jefferson County will be taking over dispatching services from Guilfoyle Ambulance, a change that county officials say will cost half a million dollars.

For years, Jefferson County has transferred many 911 calls to Guilfoyle Ambulance.

In the partnership between the two, the county would take the initial call to get the gist of the emergency: where it is and what it is.

Then, if the emergency was in the city of Watertown or the towns of Brownville Pamelia, or Rutland, the call would transfer to Guilfoyle for guidance on what the caller should do while waiting for first responders.

Now, Guilfoyle has asked the county to take over that emergency medical dispatch duty due to staffing and certification struggles.

Fire and emergency management director Joe Plummer briefed county legislators on what that will mean at a board meeting Tuesday.

“We pulled the data,” Plummer said. “That’s somewhere around 4,000 more EMDs that we will do that we don’t do today.”

It won’t be cheap. Taking over will require the county to bring on five more dispatchers. Training and equipping them alone will cost half a million dollars.

“For the dispatcher to talk on the radio, the price tag on that is $120,000 each,” Plummer said.

And it won’t be fast either.

“To get a dispatcher trained, it is a one-on-one program,” Plummer said. “It takes six months to get them trained.”

But, Plummer says, it is necessary, so the county can maintain the essential service.

Because training is lengthy and equipment is costly, the transition isn’t expected to be complete until late 2022.

Also at Tuesday night’s legislature meeting, lawmakers heard a proposal for a behavioral health urgent care in Watertown.

Tim Ruetten, the county’s director of community services, says a crisis center would benefit both Jefferson and Lewis counties.

He says ERs are inundated with mental health emergencies and often lack the resources to help those patients.

He described one case where a man spent months in an ER after a mental health crisis.

Ruetten says a federal grant could fund the center, but the idea is just preliminary.

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