Help has come in the eleventh hour for Grays Harbor EMS & Trauma Care Council (GHEMS).
The nonprofit, which provides emergency medical service training to county first responders, was set to close its office on Sumner Avenue on May 1, with a full closure in June. Thanks to some last-minute funding, GHEMS has pledged to keep its offices open and to continue coordinating the certification of all paramedics, EMTs, Emergency Medical Responders, and Advanced First Aid Personnel in the county.
The funding comes from the Quinault Business Committee of the Quinault Nation, which recently passed a resolution to fund the council.
“This funding will go directly to keeping the office open and running through December 2022. It will also allow us to continue ongoing training to meet state requirements for EMS personnel renewals. Additionally, this donation includes the valuable gift of resources to help with our ongoing search for sustainable funding,” said GHEMS Coordinator Louisa Schreier in an email to The Daily World.
Schreier and GHEMS leadership have worked tirelessly to find funding since March 2020, when the Washington State Auditor’s Office determined it was illegal for the Grays Harbor County Transit Authority to continue funding GHEMS. Donations from local businesses and individuals kept the service afloat, while state and federal funding was sought, but that money has reached its end.
Twice they applied to allocate some of the funds Grays Harbor County received from The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and twice they were denied. GHEMS also attempted to secure funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), but were previously unsuccessful.
According to Schreier, GHEMS was recently informed it will now receive an ARPA funding grant via Grays Harbor County to offset training, personnel, and funding losses they incurred over the pandemic.
Despite a recent influx of funds, GHEMS leadership will have to continue working to secure a consistent, sustainable funding source. The most promising avenue is altering the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 82.14.450 so that GHEMS and other emergency medical services could access money set aside for police and fire through the Public Safety Sales Tax–work that has been taken up by GHEMS Board Chair Frank Scherer and Vice Chair Roger Towns.
Senate Bill 5341, which would increase permissible uses of the sales tax authority, passed the Washington State Senate in the 2021 Legislative Session (49-0), but died in the Washington State House of Representatives. Scherer and Towns sent a letter to state Sen. Jeff Wilson (R-19) to get their bill back on the agenda in the 2022 Legislative Session, but were unsuccessful.
“While the fight for funding is not over, these two funding sources have secured our immediate future and will relieve the stress of funding loss so we can focus on our top priority — making sure every Grays Harbor County citizen has an amazing quality of pre-hospital health care service,” said Schreier.