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Tight Budget Concerns Harrison EMS Chief

Harrison Emergency Medical Services has requested in increase in funding every year since 2008, but has been turned down as town, according to Chief Joseph Bilotto.

As operational costs and call volume have increased during each of the last four years, Harrison Emergency Medical Services' (EMS) funding has remained the same, leaving department Chief Joseph Bilotto concerned that he will have to make some difficult spending cuts 2013.

Possibilities include a reduction in EMS staffing and possibly even taking one of department's two emergency trucks of the road. The cuts will be necessary because the costs of insurance, equipment and training continue to increase.

"I have to pull from one place to another and unfortunately it's going to be a cut in service to the community," Bilotto said.

Harrison EMS provides emergency response at fires, car accidents and medical emergencies on a daily basis, providing aid to those in need in Harrison, West Harrison and Purchase. Because of the widespread territory, Bilotto fears that taking a truck out of 24-hour operation will force them to rely more on mutual aid, which could hurt response times.

"I think that if we start stressing White Plains and Port Chester it's going to be a lot longer than nine minutes to get an ambulance," Bilotto said. "If you're having a heart attack and you're supposed to get treatment within four to six minutes, waiting longer than 10 minutes for an ambulance is going to be detrimental to people's lives."

Bilotto has approached the town board every year since 2008 to request additional funding. Harrison EMS is a third-party to the town of Harrison, but the town pays a $500,000 stipend to the department to help fund operating costs. The remainder of EMS' $2.2 million budget is paid through billing and donations.

This year Bilotto asked the board for an additional $100,000, but was denied when the board approved the 2013 budget in December.

While there was no increase this year, Harrison Mayor/Supervisor Ron Belmont said the department will get a serious look in next year's budget.

"We have to seriously look at giving them a raise," Belmont said. "Hopefully we can accommodate them."

In the meantime, Bilotto said the department has struggled to meet its operating costs. Last year's funding ran dry in December, and the department had to use part of it's 2013 stipend to catch up on payments. It's likely the department will again struggle to finish the year outside of the red.

On average, Harrison EMS responds to between 225 and 250 emergency calls a week. That number has increased steadily over the last few years. Bilotto said he has heard promises from town leadership that additional funding will be considered, but nothing has changed over the last five years.

"To me, it seems like everyone on the town board turned their backs to us," he said.

Joe January 21, 2013 at 09:40 PM
Just wanted to clarify a few items: 1) We are NOT a Third service to the Town. We were a volunteer agency that is now a paid agency that provides EMS to the Communtiy. 2) We asked the Mayor for a $50,000 payment to cover short falls in 2012 and was never given an answer yes or no, we were ignored. 3) We respond to 250 calls per month not per day. By us not being given anymore funding since 2008, we are starting to fall behind in expenses to stay operational. We have asked for ideas to save $$$ and again my letters and e-mails are ignored. If we are unable to fund the operation, ambulances and personnel will have to be cut and an attempt made to cover the calls for help with 1 ambulance. I can tell you from 22 years of experience, that is NOT going to happen. I just hope that no ones life is lost because of ignorance from the Town leaders. The blood will be on their hands, not ours.
DG January 22, 2013 at 02:46 PM
I work in a town were the average wait for a BLS ambulance is >24min. This has been a normal wait time for over 20yrs because the volunteers are unable to staff the ambulance. As long as their is a medic to stabilize the pt I don't c waiting 15 min for an ambulance for transport. I would take 15-25 min wait time then what The people of this town are use to waiting for. The Motto in this town is .. Don't get sick after 7pm
Proud Citizen January 22, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Joe, I am proud of the services that Harrison EMT provide to the people of Harrison and hopefully after the chain and ball mayor that we once had will not carry over to the new Mayor. I'm sure that once the calls start getting backed up or a slow response they will take some heat from the residents. HVAC has always have and always will provide the best Service in the County! K9-6

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