On May 15, 2018, legislation that would allow fire departments to recover the costs associated with providing emergency medical services (EMS) advanced in the State Senate. Thanks to the leadership of Local Governments Chair State Senator Kathleen Marchione, the bill moved to the Senate Finance Committee on the same day that dozens of firefighters from across New York State assembled in Albany to personally meet with their elected representatives.
This legislation (S. 0363AB / A. 7717AB) is sponsored by State Senator Betty Little and Assemblymember Billy Jones and is the main priority for New York’s fire service in 2018. It represents a bipartisan effort to provide parity among New York State’s EMS providers, which include private EMS companies, volunteer ambulance corps (VACs), and fire departments. Fire departments provide EMS coverage to nearly half of the state, and many of these departments are smaller and staffed with volunteers. EMS call volumes are steadily rising, and many fire departments now handle more ambulance than fire runs. Staffing an ambulance requires a significant investment in personnel, equipment, training, and time, and this investment is causing an affordability crisis in the fire service.
“This particular bill was advanced through the Senate Local Government Committee as it represented a bipartisan effort to provide parity among our EMS providers, including private EMS companies, volunteer ambulance corps and fire departments,” Senator Kathy Marchione (R,C,I,Reform-Halfmoon) said. “Advocating for New York’s courageous first responders by securing funding for fire departments and ambulances to purchase emergency response pagers, promote volunteer firefighter recruitment and provide active shooter response kits strongly supports our heroic first responders and their important, life-saving work that protects and serves all New Yorkers.”
Supporting this legislation is only the latest in State Senator Marchione’s enduring support for the fire service. During her elected career, the Senator has proved pivotal in advancing legislation and causes of vital interest to the fire service. One of the most notable examples of this is the presumptive cancer coverage bill that was signed into law in 2017. This legislation provided much-needed support to volunteer firefighters diagnosed with cancers resulting from their service, and State Senator Marchione was instrumental in its passage.
“Throughout her entire elected career, State Senator Kathleen Marchione has been one of the strongest advocates of the volunteer fire service,” said Kenneth Pienkowski, President of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York. “This bill is critical if fire departments are to continue providing ambulance service in New York and we call on all of Albany to support its rapid advancement and passage.”
Furthermore, State Senator Marchione has secured significant state funding to assist with firefighter recruitment and retention, greatly aiding the annual RecruitNY volunteer firefighter recruitment initiative. State Senator Marchione has worked directly with the fire service in the Capital Region, securing state funds used to upgrade the emergency response pagers used by first responders in Rensselaer County. This has proved invaluable to both the fire service and the public alike.
“This legislation has been a major priority for the fire service for several years now. We are encouraged to see the bill advance and are grateful to State Senator Kathleen Marchione for her continued support of this issue and the fire service. We hope that her colleagues will do their part and support this bill,” said John Sroka, President of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs.
State Senator Marchione’s support of the EMS cost recovery legislation is critical. The passage of the EMS cost recovery legislation would give some much-needed financial assistance to many of the State’s departments, while also likely yielding improved response times and service for New Yorkers.