Lewis County has plan to increase first responder numbers

Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 5:41 PM EDT
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LOWVILLE, New York (WWNY) - First responders in Lewis County get around 2,600 calls each year. Officials worry there aren’t enough volunteers right now to answer them all.

“There’s no guarantee today that an EMT’s actually going to be able to show up at your house based on the lack of providers,” said Josh Levesque, chief of operations for Lewis County Search & Rescue.

County legislators hope to fix that with a proposed resolution providing more than $300,000 to help agencies recruit more volunteers and support those who already volunteer.

“We are going to be able to get more paid people on board. Volunteers are very hard to get, so when we get them, we need to keep them,” said Legislator Andrea Moroughan (R. - District 6).

The plan would give $60,000 of the $300,000 to help BOCES in Lewis County launch a two-year EMS program for high school juniors and seniors.

“That will get more young people involved, and an easier path for them forward to become EMTs and eventually paramedics for us,” said Lisa Virkler, chair of the Lewis County Health & Human Services Committee.

The other $245,000 will be a one-time payment split between 8 EMS agencies with the hope it’ll relieve the pressure of always having to fundraise, allowing paid staff and volunteers to concentrate on helping their neighbors.

“There’s only so much time in a day. So, are you fundraising to keep the rig on the road, or are you refining your skills to be better out in the field,” said Lewis County Deputy Director of Fire & Emergency Management Jennifer Maracchion.

The county is also proposing to implement an EMS director, and help with costs of textbooks and training materials.