GREAT FALLS- A new study released by state health departments and EMS agencies report emergency management services (EMS) are only essential in 11 states across the nation, not including Montana.
However, for the local EMS station here in Great Falls, the study couldn't be any further from the truth.
“I feel it's not acceptable if someone in the community is having a heart attack, a stroke, a diabetic problem, that there isn't some kind of reliable structure in place to have a response to get those folks to the hospital and treated properly,” explains Justin Grohs, the General Manager for Great Falls EMS.
One of the most likely reasons EMS isn't considered essential is because of funding, something the fire and police department don't have to worry about.
“If the state government considered EMS an essential service that would likely open up more opportunities for funding of EMS services to help keep a lot of these communities covered around the state” says Grohs.
Right now, most EMS services are funded through fees for service, which basically means they get reimbursed by insurance companies.
The problem is, they usually get paid for the exact amount or just over for what it costs to treat the patient.
That's why here in Great Falls, they're trying to turn some things around.
“We would like to move towards a model where we're reimbursed for the value we bring to the community versus strictly for individual transports or the supply of transportation or the supply of medical treatment,” explains Grohs.
In fact, without fair compensation, several communities across the state will continue to struggle.
“One of the things we're starting to see fairly routinely is if a small community cannot field an ambulance response, then EMS resources from surrounding areas are coming in to handle that 9-1-1 call,” further explains Grohs.
Currently in Montana, roughly 80% of the EMS across the state are volunteers.
While these volunteer stations do receive a small portion of funding, they're still forced to fund-raise in order to make ends meet.
Overall, the conversation about making EMS an essential part of the state has been going on for over a decade now, and will continue to be talked about until the things start to change.
One of the best ways you can help is by getting educated on the subject and writing letters to your local lawmakers.
Although this might seem minimal, it has a much bigger impact than you would think.