Some north country fire departments can now recover ambulance costs

Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 6:36 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - New legislation 25 years in the making in Albany can help some fire departments in the north country.

Governor Kathy Hochul signed the $220 billion budget over the weekend. In it: the EMS Cost Recovery Act.

The legislation allows volunteer fire departments to recover costs associated with ambulance transportation and services.

“It’s going to have a pretty big impact,” said Grayden Burnet, EMS captain for the Sackets Harbor Volunteer Fire Department. “With this, we’ll be able to get some money to take care of those costs associated with the equipment and medication used on calls and we will be able to buy bigger and better equipment for our residents.

Some project the effect to be in the vicinity of $100 million. Others say it may be able to restore departments that have already disappeared.

“Hopefully it could bring back some more volunteer departments in other areas. Obviously, it’s a big need. I think bringing back volunteer departments in other areas would offer those residents the ability to have services too,” said Kelly Sova, Sackets Harbor Fire Department trustee.

Sentiments that are echoed from other departments across Jefferson County.

“The passing of that bill is huge for any fire department that has their own ambulance squad,” said Ryan McIntosh, Brownville Fire Department chief.

He says the act could open the door for brand new possibilities.

“Maybe down the road you may start seeing some departments switch to paying an EMT or two during the daytime. You know when numbers are low for volunteer ambulance squads, it could be something in the near future you start seeing,” he said.

The EMS Cost Recovery Act was developed by the Firefighters Association of the State of New York, the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, and the state Association of Fire Districts.

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