Steuben County Sheriff’s Deputies become EMTs to help EMS shortage
STEUBEN COUNTY, N.Y. – For months, News10NBC has been investigating the EMS crisis in our community. There are not enough paramedics and EMTs to keep up with the demand. The situation got so dire in our more rural counties that law enforcers had to step up and do something about it.
“Steuben County is 1,400 square miles,” explains Sheriff Jim Allard. “It’s larger than the state of Rhode Island.”
This means under normal circumstances, it can take a while to get where you’re going. But then, a number of paid and volunteer ambulance services closed or merged, creating even longer delays.
“We started looking at ambulance times of an hour, hour and a half to get someone to a facility where they could get treatment,” says Sheriff Allard.
The breaking point for the Sheriff was a call for a mother in labor who waited more than 90 minutes only to have to get herself to the hospital.
“I am a father and a grandfather and I’m thinking what if that was my family member, my daughter, my wife,” he says. “I would be frantic. We can do better.”
That’s when he insisted all of his deputies take the 120 hours of training to become certified EMTs.
“There was some initial pushback from the EMS community because this was new and it was a change and once we explained to them, ‘hey we just want to keep them alive until you can get there as the professionals with the ambulance’ they were all about it,” says Sheriff Allard.
Initially, some of the deputies were a little skeptical too.
“They got into law enforcement to be a police officer but as we talked to them, they began realizing that they got into law enforcement to help people and this was just another step in that direction,” says Investigator Christopher Kennedy, who helped get the program going.
For Steuben County Sheriff’s Deputy B. Owen, it was added training he was happy to have.
“I have four kids and my kids get hurt and so I like to assist as best as I can with them,” he tells News10NBC.
Every deputy has now become certified and has EMT supplies in the back of his or her patrol car.
“We have saline to clean out wounds,” Deputy Owen explained as he showed News10NBC around the trunk of his car. “We have albuterol and epinephrine. This is for anaphylactic shock. We have hot and cold packs. We have a blood pressure cuff and an O2 monitor.”
In all, the Steuben County Sheriff’s Deputies have 59 documented saves since the program started four years ago.
Jennifer Lewke, News10NBC: “How do you pull this off financially?”
Sheriff Allard: “Financially we’ve been very fortunate. We’ve been able to leverage grants and donations to pay for the vast majority of what we’ve done here. The last piece of equipment that we had to get that was incredibly expensive, that’s a paramedic level, we were able to leverage from the opioid settlement grant.”
Other Sheriffs are taking notice.
“We’ve had a lot more folks, especially in rural counties reach out and say, ‘how are you doing this?’” Allard says.
This includes others in our region, looking to help an overstressed and understaffed EMS system that at times can’t keep up.