Briefline

State regulation of ambulance service advances with naming of Colorado task force members

By: - August 24, 2022 1:20 pm

The sign outside the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Oct. 5, 2020. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment named 20 members to its newly-formed Emergency Medical Services system sustainability task force, as mandated following the passage of Colorado Senate Bill 22-225 — the Ambulance Service Sustainability and State Licensing law. 

The task force, according to a CDPHE news release, will evaluate medical systems and services throughout the state, issuing regular reports and recommendations on standards regarding ground and air ambulance services, equitable access, staffing and retention, and sustainable funding.

“This group brings together professionals with decades of experience in emergency services,” Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer of CDPHE, said in a news release. “Coloradans will benefit tremendously from the modernization of our emergency medical services, and I’m looking forward to working with this highly qualified team.”

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Currently, Colorado is the only state that doesn’t license and regulate the state’s ambulance services, though it does do this for air ambulances. Licensing is now done at the county level, but come Jan. 1, 2024, the state will take over after the passage of SB-225.

Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, an Arvada Democrat, was a primary sponsor of the legislation and will continue her work as a member of the task force. She said it creates a new balance of allowing the state to do what it can to help while also maintaining local control of which agencies municipalities want to work with. 

“We have really good providers and they are meeting these standards, so we don’t think it’s going to be a big hurdle,” Zenzinger said. “But, if there happened to be any gaps or if there are any agencies out there that are not quite up to snuff, we wouldn’t know about it until we established a statewide system … There was no ability to intervene or tackle problems before they were a crisis, really.”

When we are talking about these kinds of quality of life and health care standards, it makes me feel really good that we are trying to get to the bottom of it so that we can protect public health and safety.

– State Sen. Rachel Zenzinger

The task force will tackle five issues in phases, starting off by helping the state create its new regulatory system. After this is set up ahead of Jan. 1, 2024, the task force will look into inequities and disparities in access to EMS in Colorado. 

Zenzinger said Colorado has seen many reports from rural communities that lost the ability to provide ground ambulance services. Because of how critical it is for everyone to have access to an ambulance in case of an emergency, Zenzinger said this made the most sense for the task force to prioritize early on in the process. 

“At the end of the day, what we’re doing really impacts people,” Zenzinger said. “When we are talking about these kinds of quality of life and health care standards, it makes me feel really good that we are trying to get to the bottom of it so that we can protect public health and safety.”

The third issue, which also plays a key role in access, is workforce recruitment and retention. Then, the task force will look into the financial sustainability of EMS services in Colorado, and finally the long-term sustainability of the state’s EMS operations.

Financial sustainability is a key issue for Zenzinger, who said one of the biggest challenges EMS faces is the state’s low Medicaid reimbursement rates.

“We have to try and determine what would be an appropriate provider, and if we can do some research around that, then that can help inform the state so that we understand better what it would take to fully support our EMS system here in Colorado,” Zenzinger said. “But we can’t just say ‘Give us more money because we need it.’”

The task force includes stakeholders from across Colorado’s rural and urban communities. Task force members aside from Zenzinger include:

  • State Rep. Mark Baisley, a Roxborough Park Republican, also sponsored the legislation 
  • Elaine McManis, division director of Health Facilities and Emergency Medical Services for CDPHE
  • Cherilyn Wittler, EMS director at Southeast Colorado Hospital Ambulance Service
  • Dr. Gina Carr, EMS medical director for Hinsdale County EMS
  • Christopher Williams, regional manager for AMR/Global Medical Response, a private ambulance company that operates in multiple communities along the Front Range
  • Scott Van Slyke, EMS and Training Division chief Colorado River Fire Rescue
  • Dr. Jeremy DeWall, medical director for EMS agencies in nine counties and the EMS education program at Pikes Peak Community College, and regional medical director for the Southeastern Colorado Regional Emergency Medical and Trauma Services Advisory Council
  • James Robinson, assistant chief of Thompson Valley Emergency Medical Services, and a certified paramedic of over 30 years
  • Lisa Ward, policy coordinator for the Health District of Northern Larimer County and lead emergency medical technician for the Denver Health and Hospital Authority
  • Sean Caffrey, CEO and commissioner of the Crested Butte Fire Protection District 
  • Tim Dienst, chair of the State Emergency Medical and Trauma Services Advisory Council
  • Matthew Sammond, firefighter and fire medic with Littleton Fire Rescue and South Metro Fire Rescue
  • Daniel Barela, executive director of the Western Regional Emergency Medical and Trauma Services Advisory Council
  • Brandon Daruna, CEO of Eagle County Paramedics
  • Sean Wood, county commissioner in Clear Creek County 
  • Mike Freeman, county commissioner in Weld County
  • Barbara Huber, fire chief at the Pueblo Fire Department
  • Jim Keating, fire chief of the Red, White, and Blue Fire Protection District in Breckenridge

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Lindsey Toomer
Lindsey Toomer

Lindsey Toomer covers politics, social justice and other stories for Newsline. She formerly reported on city government at the Denver Gazette and on Colorado mountain town government, education and environment at the Summit Daily News. Toomer graduated from the Pennsylvania State University, where she also served as managing editor of The Daily Collegian, with degrees in journalism and global studies.

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