Good use for funds

Last week, some organizations that help ensure local residents receive the care they need got a little help of their own.

The Belmont County Board of Commissioners approved one-year contracts with 21 emergency medical service providers, most of which are volunteer fire departments. It is an annual tradition for the commission to give $6,800 to each agency that provide emergency squads staffed with personnel who are qualified to respond when a resident becomes ill or injured.

This year, there was one difference in the commission’s action. The board entered a separate, slightly different contract with the Cumberland Trail Fire District, which is a paid department. The commission agreed to pay the St. Clairsville-based agency $7,500 — $700 more than the other departments received.

At first glance that might not seem fair, but there is good reason for providing Cumberland Trail with the additional funding. In addition to serving the residents of its jurisdiction just as all other local departments do, the CTFD also is responsible for handling all medical emergency calls to the Belmont County Jail.

“This is something that falls solely on this particular fire district,” commission President J.P. Dutton said. “They have made numerous medical transports for the jail, and we appreciate that.”

Dutton said the additional money will be sufficient to cover 50 runs, which he said is about the number the district handled last year.

“If we happen to go above that amount, we’re going to be providing the Medicaid rate on those runs,” Dutton said.

During past meetings, CTFD Chief John Slavik had told commissioners the district was receiving no money for medical calls to the jail or for transporting an inmate from the jail to a local hospital. Slavik had said the district would consider billing the county for jail runs if no resolution could be obtained.

“We’re very satisfied and we believe that it is fair and equitable for both governmental entities,” Assistant Chief Tim Hall said.

Congratulations to the commission and to Cumberland Trail for working out a solution. The CTFD is funded primarily through a levy approved by voters of the district, and those taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the jail’s medical bills for the entire county.

The commission also deserves praise for supporting these vital services throughout the county. We believe the allocations to EMS providers represent a wise use of taxpayers’ money.