To the Editor:
The volunteer EMS community’s financial fears are becoming reality. In December 2009, former Gov. Jon Corzine transferred $4 million from the EMT Training Fund to the general fund to help offset a budget shortfall. As a result, since April 1, the fund reimburses only part of the volunteer EMT’s educational requirements. Sources of reimbursable continuing education units (CEUs) also are scaled back.
New Jersey volunteer EMTs must accumulate 48 CEUs – 24 core and 24 elective -- before their renewal deadline, which recently was changed from every three years to every five years in an effort to stretch training fund dollars. Core education reimbursement for new EMTs takes priority, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services, which oversees the fund. Reimbursement for renewing EMTs comes second. With few exceptions, the fund no longer reimburses elective CEUs, leaving some individuals likely having to pay to maintain their EMT certification and volunteer status.
The CEUs are in addition to the hundreds of hours countless EMTs donate annually answering calls 24/7, training and fundraising. Statewide, EMS volunteers collectively spend millions of hours on call and save their communities tens of millions of dollars annually.
EMS volunteer numbers in New Jersey have been on a steady decline during the last few decades, largely due to time and economic constraints such as the necessity of two-income households and individuals working more than one job to make ends meet.
No doubt this latest development will further hinder our efforts to recruit and retain more EMS volunteers.
For information on becoming an EMS volunteer, visit www.njsfac.org or call (800) 390-8991.
New Jersey State First Aid Council
Barbara Aras is president, New Jersey State First Aid Council, which represents more than 20,000 EMS volunteers affiliated with hundreds of squads throughout the state.