LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — In an attempt to address the region’s emergency medical services crisis, eight municipalities in northwest Lancaster came together to create a first-of-its-kind solution.

The EMS crisis became very apparent for the northwest Lancaster region back in 2018 when municipalities were at a crossroads when it came to the future of providing emergency medical services to the surrounding community. Many EMS agencies across the region struggled to maintain these services due to:

  • Soaring costs
  • Funding shortfalls
  • Staffing challenges

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To put this into perspective, even the northwest EMS in northwest Lancaster County, which was named Pennsylvania’s EMS Agency of the Year in 2020 by the Pennsylvania Emergency Health Services Council, was facing serious problems due to insufficient revenue and rising costs.

“Although Northwest EMS is widely known for outstanding service, less than half of municipal residents contribute to the organization through subscriptions,” Elizabethtown Borough Council President and chair of the committee of municipal leaders who convened to address the local EMS crisis Marc Hershey said. “The average gap between gross billings and insurance payments was averaging over $4 million a year. And increasing expenses for equipment, fuel, certifications, trainings and employee benefits were taking a heavy toll. In short, municipalities in our region needed a bold solution to continue to meet their statutory obligation to ensure EMS readiness to answer the call.”

In an attempt to solve the problems facing EMS, eight municipalities banded together to form the first rate-setting regional municipal emergency services authority in Pennsylvania. The eight municipalities coming together to form this authority are:

  1. Conoy Township
  2. East Donegal Township
  3. Elizabethtown Borough
  4. Elizabeth Township
  5. Marietta Borough
  6. Mount Joy Township
  7. Penn Township
  8. West Donegal Township

Starting in 2021, a committee began studying and exploring solutions to this crisis, and after conducting analysis they believed that the creation of a regional municipal emergency services authority, under the Pennsylvania Municipality Authorities Act in order to fund and provide EMS services, was the best option.

According to the newly formed Municipal Emergency Services Authority of Lancaster County, after several months of committee led public meetings, education initiatives, and a public hearing, the eight municipalities enacted ordinances to form the Municipal Emergency Services Authority in Lancaster County – which was officially incorporated on Feb. 7.

The board for the newly formed authority is comprised of representatives from each of the founding municipalities. According to the Municipal Emergency Services Authority of Lancaster County, this board will be responsible for determining the authorities’ services and fees.

According to the Municipal Emergency Services Authority of Lancaster County, the new annual services and fees for property owners are expected to be on par with Northwest EMS subscription rates, which are currently:

  • Single – $55
  • Couple – $70
  • Family – $85

“It is our hope that the Municipal Emergency Services Authority of Lancaster County will serve as a model for other municipalities in Pennsylvania facing an EMS crisis,” Hershey added. “Paving a path to this solution took hard work, but there was never a question that a municipal-led solution was needed. EMS is an essential public service. As municipal leaders, we recognized that we not only needed to solve this problem to meet our statutory obligation. We needed to solve this together to potentially save the lives of our neighbors, family members and friends.”

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The newly formed authority will begin holding board meetings in March, and a public hearing is expected in late Summer to discuss the authority’s services and fee structure.

For more information on the newly formed authority, you can visit their website by clicking here.

The authority plans to be fully operational by early 2024.