STEUBEN COUNTY, N.Y. (WENY) -- A study beginning in 2020 was conducted in Steuben County regarding emergency medical response. Woodhull and several surrounding rural communities were identified as "high need" after seeing a decline in volunteer EMS workers in the last few years. Now, the county has made an agreement to help improve that.

The agreement between Steuben County and Woodhull Fire District went into effect on Tuesday, July 2. It provides for two Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) to be on call at the Woodhull Fire Department from 6 A.M. to 6 P.M. Monday through Friday.

This plan comes after years of special meetings, research, and development so that the county addresses the need for more hands and shorter response times for emergency medical calls.

"The county has decided to hire part-time EMTs and paramedics to work on the road and fill some of the gaps that are put in place by volunteers," said Tim Marshall, the Steuben County Public Safety Director. "You know, typically volunteers aren't available very often during the day because most of the folks work."

Adding the extra staff from the county is just a start to helping people in the area. It is one of several changes Steuben County officials are putting into place.

"So, we've also added a 24/7, 365 fly-car staffed by a paramedic," said Marshall. "That unit will move in different parts of the county depending on the time of the day, where the other resources for the county are, and provide advanced life support to local first responders."

Those on-call EMTs stationed at the Woodhull Fire Department have only worked a few shifts but, they say they are already seeing changes. The most important one being improved response times.

"We're seeing improvements in call times," said Tyler Smalt, an EMT Basic with Steuben County Emergency Management Services. "Obviously when you call 9-1-1, you're expecting an ambulance, probably fast, in a lot of cases. So, I think that's what's really good for the community is that call times are being improved and we're getting an ambulance right out the door now that we are here and readily available to provide treatment and transport."

EMS Coordinator Brandon Rossettie will be operating the unit as plans move forward. Officials say they hope to be able to expand their programming and access other areas that need improved emergency response in Steuben County.

However, an important thing to note about this new programming is that it will change things for patients receiving these emergency services. The EMTs are paid by Steuben County but patients' insurance will now be billed for services provided by on-call first responders. 

In a prepared statement, Marshall said, "This will be different from in the past when volunteers provided these services for free, County staff will be billing for services in order to try to provide support for the ongoing costs."

Marshall continued to say that emergency calls should still be directed to 9-1-1 for dispatch.