07/01/09 - EMT Training Fund raided by Governor's
Office during Fiscal Crisis
On April 23, 2009 New Jersey Governor Corzine announced he would raid the EMT Training Fund for $4,000,000 to reallocate the funds to the general treasury in an attempt to relieve the budget crisis. This fund provides training monies for Volunteer EMT's and is a critical preparedness and retention tool for Volunteer EMS agencies.
The EMT Fund does not have this type of surplus. This action would leave $400,000 in the EMT Training Fund as of 7/1/09. As-is with current expenditure, the EMT Fund spends $1,000,000 more than it takes in. This action would in effect discontinue the training for NJ Volunteer EMTs and force individuals (during a recession) to pay for their own training to donate their time to their communities. It's expected that many will not be able to afford it and will have to be replaced by paid providers (who cost much more than the training expenses the state is saving).
The EMT fund is not tax money. It's a public trust created by legislature. Every time there is a moving violation in New Jersey, $0.50 is collected and placed into this fund to train EMT's.
The NJEMSEA began coordinating a legislative campaign to urge the Governor's office to change their decision. We also attempted to enlist senators and assemblypersons to assist in our cause with an email, call, and letter writing campaign. We sent press releases to media outlets, worked with reporters on stories, and spoke at a rally in Morristown organized by Dominick Sandelli from the Morristown Ambulance Squad.
While the realities of the recession were not lost on us, and we acknowledge the difficult fiscal times we are in, our position was that a dedicated trust that yields thousands of free labor hours for municipalities should not be touched. Getting the Governor to change his mind would be a difficult task, but a last minute windfall of $550 million dollars from the NJ Tax Amnesty program seemed like it might provide the capital to replace the EMT Training Fund. Sadly, the Governor decided to use those funds for tax rebates without replacing the monies he took from the EMT Training Fund.
The NJEMSEA was assisted by hundreds of EMS providers who worked tirelessly to send emails, make calls, and recruit friends and family to support the cause. Our first push yielded 500 emails sent to all members of legislature in a period of approximately 27 hours. We received correspondence from various senators and assemblypersons, met with some, and two budget resolutions were introduced by legislators to replace the monies. Unfortunately, we did not get a majority of support, and the EMT Training Fund suffered a massive funds depletion.
Although we did not succeed in our primary goal, it was a proud moment in NJ EMS. Coordinators reached out to agency leaders such as squad captains and EMS managers, they in turn mobilized their members and employees, who in turn had their families and friends pitch in. In seeing the emails funneled through our distribution list, there were numerous heartfelt emails from EMT's about how important EMS was to them and how if affects their life. Many of you fought fiercely to defend the Fund, and it shows in dozens of emails. Being in a position to see the outpouring of dedication was inspiring and gave many of us at NJEMSEA a higher sense of pride in our EMS certifications.
Some highlights from the EMT Fund Legislative Action of 2009:
09/05/08 - NJAC
8:40A Legislative Action - "NJ EMS Comes Together"
Last week ended the public commentary period for the proposed changes to NJAC 8:40A, the law that governs how EMT-Basics are certified. While many of the proposed changes were positive modernizations of the certification process and EMT-Basic scope of practice, a few of the changes were either logistically impractical or offered little benefit to current practice.
The New Jersey Emergency Medical Services Educator's Association (NJEMSEA) put together a position paper on the proposed changes, and sought out likeminded organizations and industry figures to endorse the positions on the changes. All agencies contacted expressed similar positions to that of the NJEMSEA, and the document had endorsements from several other NJ EMS organizations.
"We contacted a number of organizations that had interests in NJ EMS, and we could not find one organization that thought having to repeat ICS, NIMS, HazMat Awareness and CBRNE every three years was a good idea" said John Mateus, NJEMSEA President, "it's especially difficult to justify it as a standard for First Responders since the Law Enforcement and Fire Suppression industries only require the training be done once."
"NJ's EMS organizations really came together in a way rarely seen before." said Bil Rosen, NJEMSEA Vice-President "I think we told the Department of Health in a constructive way that the industry thinks the proposed regulations need some work before they go to legislature."
The document was sent to the Department of Health Regulatory Coordinator with the logos of the endorsing organizations. Organizations that endorsed the document in full or in part included:
- Medical Transportation Association NJ
- NJ Association of Paramedic Programs
- NJ State Safety Council
- Hunterdon County EMS Squad Chief's Association
- East Bergen Ambulance Association
- Mercer County Regional EMS Association
- Steven Vetrano, DO
- Mark Merlin, MD
The Department of Health will continue its regulatory process by digesting the public commentary and possibly editing the proposed NJAC 8:40A based on the public feedback. A version of NJAC 8:40A that is ready for a vote by legislature is expected in a few months.
The NJEMSEA is a non-profit Association of EMS Educators with a mission of promoting quality didactic and clinical education through professionalism, consistency, ethics and experience to students of the emergency medical services throughout the state of New Jersey. You can get information about the organization at http://www.NJEMSEA.org .
UPDATE 07/01/09 - Dept of Health abandons changes to NJAC 8:40A
The Department of Health has decided not to pursue the NJAC 8:40A revision that we were lobbying against. While our goal at NJEMSEA was to urge the Department of Health to make changes to the text of NJAC 8:40A, we consider this a step in the right direction, and look forward to the opportunity to collaborate with OEMS in future revisions if asked.
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