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Minnesota Legislature

EMS fund is stock-market victim

Published (2/20/2009)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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A program that helps rural areas enhance their volunteer ambulance personnel efforts has fallen victim to the stock market downturn, and those benefitting from the funds are reprioritizing their requests to the state.

Advocates for the Minnesota Ambulance Association came before the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee Feb. 17 asking to use some of the fund’s remaining money for new and existing emergency services programs.

HF161, sponsored by Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls), would make that possible.

O.J. Doyle, a lobbyist on behalf of the association, said the Cooper/Sams Volunteer Ambulance Recruitment and Retention Trust has been used to help recruit and retain volunteer ambulance personnel in rural Minnesota. Funded by the state, it developed a surplus over the years and some money was put back into the General Fund, including last year.

Expecting the state to use money for the General Fund again this year, the Emergency Medical Services Board began to detail how much it would need to ensure its programming. They were surprised to learn the value of the fund had dropped in half, to $5 million, because of investment losses in the state pension funds.

Therefore, the board is reprioritizing its request to use some money for existing programs, and new programs in 2010, including:

• $800,000 for the regional EMS programs to be equally distributed among the state’s eight regions;

• $250,000 for a one-year pilot project to demonstrate savings to the health care system;

• $200,000 for grants to a new veterans paramedic apprenticeship program; and

• $100,000 for training of emergency personnel relating to children.

The bill received committee approval and awaits action by the House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee.

Its companion, SF109, sponsored by Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

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