By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

County commissioners, on  June 11, learned more about the rural Emergency Medical Services (EMS) financial assistance from the state of Minnesota. Providing an overview was County Administrator Nicole Hansen.

State legislation provides $24 million in emergency aid for EMS providers who primarily serve Greater Minnesota communities. The EMS aid package also includes $6 million to launch a pilot program in Otter Tail, Grant and St. Louis counties. 

“Otter Tail County is responsible for keeping track of money and for administration of the pilot program,” Hansen said. “There is an application process for EMS providers here in our county.”

Hansen said that Otter Tail County, for 2024, should receive a minimum of $1.1 million in EMS assistance.

A bipartisan EMS Task Force, including State Sen. Jordan Rasmusson of Fergus Falls and State Rep. Jeff Backer of Browns Valley, investigated how Minnesota could improve the life-saving services provided by EMS personnel. The EMS aid package is a result of feedback the Task Force received from Minnesotans across the state, including residents in Otter Tail County.

When Minnesotans call 9-1-1, they expect to quickly receive help from Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers and other first responders.

Ambulance response times, however, have been delayed in recent months due to consolidated services and expanded coverage areas. Before that the pandemic took hold on an already stretched system and made things more difficult.

Some communities have even faced the possibility of losing their ambulance services. Many of those ambulance services receive local funding but the vast majority rely on reimbursement from public medical programs that fail to adequately cover the cost of EMS services.

“With the approval of this $30 million EMS aid package, we are extending a lifeline for this critical service,” Rasmusson said. “This funding is transparent and prioritizes rural communities that need the most help.”