Legislation letting counties create EMS funding districts passes Wyoming Senate, heads to House

    Two Fremont County legislators have sponsored a bill proposal this session that would let Wyoming counties establish Emergency Medical Services districts to help fund local ambulance crews.

    Wyoming Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, introduced Senate File 43 to the Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee last week, describing the “challenges of providing EMS in rural areas” like Fremont County – an area he referred to as “vast.”

    “Our population is 40,000, but it’s spread from Dubois to Atlantic City, (and) we have a lot of industry – remote oilfields and things like that,” Case said. “You could have three ambulances strategically placed with crews in Fremont County and still suffer a situation where a need for a fourth one in a different place comes up. It happens almost every day.”


    The challenge is further complicated by the “trend” toward more “professional,” and therefore more expensive, EMS services, Case said.

    “That’s what the public demands,” he said, adding, “The public demands pretty fast response times (too).

    “In a place like Fremont County, that’s pretty difficult to achieve.”

    ‘Sustainable funding’

    Fremont County currently pays almost $1.5 million per year to subsidize local EMS services, Commissioner Mike Jones told the legislative committee – up from $950,000 just a couple of years ago.


    The increase in costs has prompted the commission to start looking for a more “sustainable funding model” to support EMS services, Jones said, and the tax district outlined in SF 43 represents “a good option for us.”

    SF 43 would allow the county commission to pass a resolution establishing an EMS district with a board of three to nine residents.

    The “important piece,” Case said, is that the commission can’t impose any mill levies to fund the district without the support of the voting public.


    “(A mill levy) has to be approved by the board of the district, the county commissioners, and submitted to the people for a vote,” Case said. “They can’t impose a mill levy … without a vote of the people.”

    Jones said he appreciated the requirement to “put the ask out in front of the constituents.”

    “We really, really like that,” he said. “We’re not … sure we can convince everybody that this is the right way to go, (but) we like the accountability that’s built into it.”


    Statewide efforts

    SF 43 also received support last week from EMS groups throughout the state – namely the Wyoming EMS Association, which has been working with the Wyoming Hospital Association and Gov. Mark Gordon’s office to address overarching EMS funding issues on a more long-term basis.

    “(We) are pushing for a much broader approach to stabilizing and revamping our system,” WEMSA president Luke Sypherd told the legislative committee last week. “We know that there needs to be a system redesign.

    “(But) I think that the mill levy is an appropriate, perhaps short-term, answer. … We are very pleased to see that the legislature has heard our voice and heard the needs of EMS and is working toward solutions.”

    Representatives from the American Association of Retired Persons and the WHA both spoke in favor of SF 43 as well, and the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, which generally opposes special districts, said they would not oppose this bill, citing a need for ambulance services at remote work sites.

    The committee approved SF 43 in a 3-2 vote, and Case introduced it on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, fielding a couple of questions about the proposal, as well as some compliments from colleagues like Wyoming Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, who called SF 43 “a creative attempt to take care of something that has been a real issue in Fremont County for a long time.”

    The Wyoming Senate approved SF 43 on third reading Thursday in a 23-8 vote, with Case and Wyoming Sen. Ed Cooper, R-Ten Sleep, in favor, and Wyoming Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, opposed.

    The bill will now head to the Wyoming House of Representatives for further consideration.


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