The North Fork Ambulance Board is considering changes to ensure emergency medical services remain sustainable into the future. North Fork Ambulance was established in 1969 for the purpose of providing emergency medical care and transport for the people of the North Fork valley and beyond. Beginning as an “all-volunteer” organization, it has operated for 49 years, growing and increasing its level of service and professionalism as the community has grown. The North Fork Ambulance response area covers approximately 1,550 square miles in and around the North Fork valley, reaching into Gunnison and Montrose Counties. Ambulance stations and on-call crews are located in Paonia, Hotchkiss and Crawford to provide the fastest possible response time in the event of a medical emergency.
In 2015, a series of community meetings were held as part of our efforts to be responsive to community needs. At these meetings, the community identified three important goals for the service:
(1) Maintain the fastest response time possible
(2) Raise the level of care
(3) Become financially sustainable
Through additional training and certification of several crew members, NFAA has increased its level of care to Advanced Life Support. Simultaneously, grant funds were secured to purchase three quick response vehicles that carry the most highly trained EMTs directly to the scene of the emergency to assist and provide advanced care as necessary.
The third goal - financial sustainability - has been the most challenging. In 2016 and 2017, additional efforts were made to increase memberships and community sponsorship. We are all grateful for the 34% of residents and businesses who actively support North Fork Ambulance with voluntary memberships and donations; however, it is simply not enough to sustain the emergency service at its current level. In 1989, memberships paid for 71% of operating expenses. Today, due to rising personnel and equipment costs, along with decreasing revenues from insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, memberships only covers 20% of expenses. Through careful financial analysis and projections, the North Fork Ambulance Board has determined that the current financial structure must evolve for this vital service to continue.
The North Fork Ambulance Board has conducted extensive research, considered several options, and has determined that the establishment of a Special District with a small mill levy on property would be the most effective and fair way to ensure financial viability of this crucial emergency service.
As with any taxing issue, the formation of a Special District and a mill levy to fund it would be decided by the voters in the area served. With the support of the people in the North Fork valley, and the County Commissioners in all three counties, it is the intention of the North Fork Ambulance Board to go before the voters in the November 2018 election to seek approval for the formation of a Special District to ensure that quality, timely emergency medical services continue uninterrupted in the North Fork valley.
The North Fork Ambulance has served its community with efficacy and passion since 1969. It has evolved with the community to become not just an ambulance service, but an essential part of the health and wellness of the North Fork valley. It is only fair that financial support for this critical service be spread among all residents of the service area to ensure its long-term existence.
The North Fork Ambulance Board is convinced the establishment of the Special District is a responsible and sustainable path to providing quality emergency care to our large, rural service area and encourages public support this November.