County emergency management director secures $99K Iowa grant for EMS internships
16 students may take classes this summer and help ease the staffing shortage
By Chad Drury
OTTUMWA, Iowa — One by one, people associated with emergency management stood up and introduced themselves — 123 years' worth of experience was on hand for the Wapello County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday at the courthouse.
In a few months, the hope is that 16 high school and college-age students will be joining their ranks.
County director of emergency management Tim Richmond revealed that his office had received a $98,565 Future Ready Iowa grant, which will kickstart the "home-grown" aspect of developing EMS personnel. Richmond approached the supervisors in March about creating an internship program that would help alleviate the EMS shortage crisis, and the grant brings together a four-county partnership to address it.
"These people are the real brains of the operation. I'm just the paper-pusher," said Richmond, pointing to a row of people who are either currently EMS personnel or have a background in the field.
The process of selecting 16 applicants for the internships will move fast. Students ages 17-24 from Appanoose, Davis, Van Buren and Wapello counties will complete a paid internship to become EMTs. During the internship, which will take place over the summer, those selected will take a state-approved EMT course through Indian Hills Community College, while completing health care exploration, a course lab and clinical hours at area ambulance services, fire-based EMS services and hospitals.
Also, interns will receive information on furthering their education in the health care field by continuing to the paramedic level.
Richmond said priority will be given to at-risk individuals who meet certain criteria, such as being a first-generation students, a high school dropout, a child or parent from a single-parent family, or from an under-represented ethnic population.
The grant award itself was quite an achievement, since the application was sent at the last minute in order for the program to get off the ground this summer.
"It was an aggressive application that we weren't sure about at the time, but we were able to take a risk and the risk paid off," Richmond said. "There was less than $400,000 statewide for the initiative, and this was the second-highest award."
Richmond said this week "there will be a lot of work and scrambling to get ready." He said the internship application window will be open for two weeks on the wapelloready.org website by the end of the week.
"Thank you for betting us on and your continued support," Richmond told the board. "Hopefully we will produce 16 EMTs by the end of the summer."
In other business:
— The board approved a $5,000 stipend for the county auditor. The Wapello County Compensation Board recommended $10,000, but supervisor Brian Morgan believed it fair to cut the recommendation in half in the same way they did with the salaries for elected officials.
"I think the office seems to be as much as a catch-all anymore for things. The new tax bill is going to add another layer of sending out notices and other things," Morgan said in his justification for the stipend. "I think statewide the office needs to be looked at differently than it was 20 years ago. There are other counties doing that, and done things such as making it a budget director position, which we've talked about ourselves.
"I don't think it's necessarily something we want to see done every year. To me, it's just an elevated workload that we've seen with that department in the last several years."
All three supervisors also decided to add language to the agenda item regarding current duties of the department and duties that have been added on over the years.
— Sheriff Don Phillips asked the supervisors to offer a letter of support for a the Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) grant through the U.S. Department of Justice. The one-time grant, if awarded, would allow the sheriff's office to hire two deputies, and the grant is for $125,000 per deputy over a three-year period. The supervisors agreed they would write the letter, and the application deadline is May 11.
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