Western Joint Ambulance District Capt. Jim Corbin explains the medical bags in the back of the paramedic agency’s recognizable blue vehicles. This agency, which has been serving Crosby and Whitewater townships for 24 years, is figuring out its future as financial resources dwindle. Sydney Murray/The Harrison Press
Ambulance district struggles with role as funds drop
Without a new funding source, this could be the last year the Western Joint Ambulance District functions much as it has over the past 24 years, providing at least two paramedics to local communities.
West JAD currently serves Crosby and Whitewater Townships with these paramedics ready to answer calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
With time running out, the agency is tasked with figuring out the future.
“A joint ambulance district is a different animal than a fire department,” said West JAD Chief Nadine Swift. “You serve multiple communities, you serve them all equally. They all pay into it equally, and they all have a say how they want to do it.”
West JAD was formed in the 1990s after Providence Hospital (now a part of Mercy Health - West Hospital) pulled its paramedic service from the City of Harrison, Cleves, and Crosby, Harrison, Miami, and Whitewater townships.
Five of these areas joined to pass a continuing levy to put medics in their communities, and a second continuing levy was later added. Miami Township did not join West JAD.
The agency was only supposed to exist for a few years until the communities could go on their own. The City of Harrison was the first to leave West JAD, then Harrison Township and then Cleves.
Swift said Crosby and Whitewater townships are smaller income communities.
“When Harrison city left ... they took 50 percent of our volume. Along with it, they took 50 percent of our income,” said Swift.
When some of these communities made it known they were going to leave, West JAD got permission from the state to save some money it had coming in to extend the service time they could give to the smaller communities.
At one point, West JAD had about $1.2 million in the bank, but knew it would last about nine or 10 years.
Swift said it is because of good planning that they were able to last as long as they have, but West JAD Clerk Robert Grauvogel said now “their backs are against the wall.”
Grauvogel said barring any unexpected expense, West JAD will be able to continue with two medics through this year.
The two continuing levies provide enough revenue for one 24/7 medic. Theoretically, West JAD could keep one medic indefinitely as long as these two levies continue.
Although Swift said the agency is trying to look at avenues besides a new levy, Grauvogel said a 1-mill levy would “fix them up.”
Whitewater Township Trustee Lawanda Corman said she probably couldn’t support a levy because the Southwest Local School District recently passed a 6.99-mill levy, and both townships also have passed levies for paramedic service.
Levy or not?
But, West JAD paramedic Erin Sarvis said they could just try to pass a levy and if it fails, it fails.
“If I was living here and it was a question of $40 on a $100,000 house and I knew medics were coming, and I know how far we are from a hospital…. I’d sure as heck would want paramedics here,” said Sarvis. “That’s not very much for peace of mind.”
Another option would be for West JAD to completely dissolve and the money would go back to the taxpayers.
A third option could be for West JAD to dissolve except on paper and keep the tax money coming in, which would then be split between the two townships to be used for paramedic service.
“The money’s still coming in, it still has to go to paramedic service,” said Swift.
But, although splitting the money would help supplement both community’s paramedic service, West JAD Capt. Jim Corbin said West JAD is a stable agency that has paramedics with a high level of experience.
“This is the best staff that I’ve ever worked with,” said Corbin.
Crosby and Whitewater have had some trouble going on their own for multiple reasons.
“They don’t have the money in their budgets to pay somebody like a big city does,” said Swift.
The townships also offer few full-time positions. Crosby has one full-time paramedic and Whitewater has two.
“They are great departments to run with, their people are great,” said Swift. “Wonderful experience. We have all kinds of stuff that we see out here as far as emergency services, but pretty much like a training ground. Because as soon as somebody else gets some security, they’re gonna leave, and you can’t blame them. They need to go because they’ve got a family.”
Lack of medics
Swift also said an overall lack of medics isn’t a problem independent to Crosby and Whitewater townships. She said not many people are in school anymore to become paramedics.
She said Crosby and Whitewater both try their best to have good medic staffing.
“If we could guarantee that the guys in the fire departments could get their medics, it would be simple,” said Swift. “We would just close out and the money that’s in the medic levy that comes would be split. … Crosby would get what they’ve got coming and Whitewater would get what they’ve got coming, and that would help enhance their medic service, but the problem is that they can’t manage to keep those medics in there all the time.”
Swift will be meeting with Whitewater Township Fire Department Chief Scott Schorsch and Crosby Township Fire Department Chief Jason Davis soon to continue discussions of West JAD’s future. The next scheduled West JAD meeting is April 4.
Swift said this issue has been emotional for everyone and said West JAD’s only goal is taking care of patients. She said she just wants these communities to have the best care possible.
“I don’t go anywhere that West JAD doesn’t have a good name,” said Swift. “Because it has always been about patient care. It has never been about uniforms, it has never been about trucks. It has never been about anything but patient care.”