Monroe County to spend $4.2M to help recruit and train new EMTs

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Monroe County will spend $4.2 million of its federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to help recruit and train new EMTs and paramedics. 

The new initiative aims to help ease the staffing crisis that most of our local EMS providers are in. 

The funding will be spread over four years and allow for one 20-student cohort on a track to earn associate’s degrees and become EMTs and one 20-student paramedic cohort to enter the program in each of those years. Those who participate in the program will get paid for it and have all of their expenses – including books, supplies, transportation costs and daycare costs – covered. 

People who successfully complete the program which will be offered through Monroe Community College will be qualified to work for any EMS provider in Monroe County and required to stay for at least two years. 

“Fewer than 5 percent of all people who live in the United States will serve as an EMT or paramedic, yet 100 percent of the population expects us to be ready at any time they have an emergency,” explains Jonathan Smith, chair of the Monroe County EMS Chiefs Association. 

But even that is getting harder and harder to do. In 2021 for example, fewer than 20 people became paramedics in Monroe County. 

“With over 700,000 residents in our community, we had less than 20 new paramedics,” says Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, reiterating that it’s just not enough in the long-term. 

Jennifer Lewke, News10NBC: “We’ve seen BOCES programs like this. We’ve seen programs like this at the [Emergency Operations Center]. What makes this one different, and are you confident that the people are out there to fill those 20 spots every year?

Adam Bello, Monroe County Executive: “Yeah. What was attractive about this program was the fact that it takes a holistic approach to the training. It breaks down barriers that exist for individuals. So, whether it’s transportation, it’s childcare. The other thing is the loss of income that someone might have when they go to seek training to change their career path or get into a new career field, so, this also actually pays for the training as well.”

The county program is a good start according to the EMS agencies but when it comes to their long-term viability, they’ll need more. They’ve been pushing state and federal lawmakers to increase Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates and they need private insurers to change their practices, too.

“Many of the insurers here in New York state, outside of the Medicaid and Medicare system, when they reimburse us for service, they pay that directly to the patient and not to us as the service provider, so, we then spend time chasing checks and it creates fraud, waste and abuse,” said Smith.