STURGIS — Faith Ambulance Service officials hope to fill the void of EMS personnel within Meade County by launching a rural pandemic student scholarship program.
Kris Escott, Faith Ambulance Service director, asked the Meade County Commission Tuesday to consider using some federal COVID funds to help establish the scholarship program.
“Rural EMS is hanging on by a thread,” Escott said. “This would help EMTs further their education if they wish.”
Initially, Escott said she would like to request $2,500 for the scholarship from the county.
“If it is successful this year, then possibly continue to be used to promote rural EMS personnel to further their education,” she said.
Escott said she would be approaching the Faith City Council to ask for funding also.
“If we have the paramedics in Faith, I think they should have some skin in the game too,” she said.
Escott said she would like to see the paramedic program grow.
“I would like to see the city and county work together to come up with a possible solution for the severe rural EMS shortage. I feel this is an investment in our community and county,” she said.
Meade County Commissioner Doreen Creed told Escott that the city of Sturgis has a similar scholarship program to help EMS staff continue their education.
“You might get with them. That might give you a road map that you could follow,” she said.
Escott said it already is difficult for people to make the commitment of the distance and time away from their family and primary jobs to attend a paramedic program, but she is hoping if the county and city would be willing to help with the cost, maybe it would be more incentive to make the commitment.
Commissioner Talbot Wieczorek asked Escott how much the advanced paramedic training would cost. Escott said she estimated the cost at about $8,000.
Those interested would need to apply for the scholarship. They most likely would attend programs such as the School of EMS in Sioux Falls or at Western Dakota Tech in Rapid City.
“I like the idea of the plan you are pitching, but it would be nice to have the supporting documentation and say we are ready to go with this and this is how we are going to do it before we commit money to it,” Wieczorek said.
Escott said she wasn’t sure if she should come to the commission first to see if there was interest before she did all the legwork on the program.
“I think it’s a real possibility,” Creed said.
A young woman who was raised in Faith and lives there now with her family is already interested in the program if it gets off the ground, Escott said.
The Faith Ambulance Service would need to work out the details and obtain a contract agreement of a definitive time of service with the city/county in which they would need to serve if they were provided the scholarship funds. Escott added that if the contract were broken, the student would be obligated to repay the scholarship funds.
Meade County Commissioner Rich Liggett said the county is uncertain of the guidelines associated with the American Rescue Plan money from the federal government.
“I’m really hopeful we can find some answers on what we can use that money for. Obviously giving it back to the community is one of the things it would work for if that is available. If not, maybe this is something you bring back when we do our budget cycle to get in with the non-mandated portions,” he said.
Escott said that with the COVID money she believed this would be a good time to try the scholarship program and see if there is interest.
Liggett said the commission was not in a position to approve the request Tuesday. Commission Assistant Jerry Derr said he would give Escott any updates on the American Rescue Plan money and how it can be spent along with details of requesting non-mandated county funding.
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