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Warren County Emergency Medical Services conducts an emergency evacuation drill at Glens Falls Hospital. Photo via <a href="">Warren County Emergency Medical Services</a>
Warren County Emergency Medical Services conducts an emergency evacuation drill at Glens Falls Hospital. Photo via Warren County Emergency Medical Services

EMS volunteer numbers plummet in Warren, Washington Cos

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The number of volunteers in the region's emergency squads continues to plummet. As volunteers leave, paid staff often has to fill the gap. That's an added financial burden.

Officials in Warren and Washington counties said last week that, unless something is done to boost the number of volunteers, many of the squads in small, rural communities won't survive.

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Thurman EMS, which responds to about 100 calls a year, has opened, closed and opened again over the last two months, setting off a local firestorm between squad supporters and the Town Board.

Mike Mastrianni is president of the State Volunteer Ambulance and Rescue Association. He said the annual budget season battles between cash-strapped town boards and local squads is a sign of a region-wide illness.

"I think a lot of it is due to the economy. In the past, people had time to volunteer. Now, with the economy how it's been, people have had to get second jobs," he said. "What was a one-income household has now become two incomes."

Once all-volunteer squads in Argyle, Salem, Stony Creek and Whitehall face low call volumes and fewer volunteers. Those in the more populous towns of Queensbury and Fort Edward have both more calls and more members.

Meanwhile, subsidies from local town have remained flat or declined in many cases as officials struggle with the state's two percent tax cap.

Mastrianni says ambulance corps seems to have the most difficulty finding and keeping volunteers.

"So they pay people between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.," Mastrianni said. "Now they're finding that evenings are becoming more difficult, some of the overnights are becoming more difficult.

Warren County Emergency Services Director Brian LaFlure says 600 calls a year is the threshold for a squad's financial survivability.

Reach that limit, and a squad can pay for itself, even with flat Medicaid reimbursement rates and deep cuts in Medicare rates. Fall short, he says, and a squad is headed toward insolvency

EMS leaders say increased training and certification requirements are also driving volunteers away.

Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried said that the legislature may have to step in, perhaps loosen the requirements or make it easier for neighboring towns to share a squad.

Jon Alexander's reporting is courtesy of the Glens Falls Post Star. For more of his reporting, go to

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