A Letter to the CSEMS Community

June 28, 2017

To the CSEMS Community:

We are writing to inform the regional EMS community about changes that will be taking place over the next 12-18 months regarding Central Shenandoah EMS Council and the services we offer.

For more than 35 years, Central Shenandoah EMS Council has provided regional planning and educational support services to its five cities and five counties, eleven towns and many public agencies within its boundary.  One of the cornerstones of the Council over these many years has been our ability to offer low-cost, high quality EMS educational programs which have served to boost the ranks of volunteer and career EMS providers alike.

Beginning in the fall of 2014, the Council suffered a cascade of funding setbacks which, through no fault of our own, have created major roadblocks to our ability to continue to offer the same level of services and educational programming to our membership and the greater region.

The ruling from the Office of Attorney General (OAG) in 2014 which stated that Regional EMS Council’s were no longer able to be the direct recipient of funds from the Return to Localities portion of the $4 for Life program, created an immediate $80,000 shortfall in our budget.  While we were able to make up some of that loss through the Building a Stronger Future funding campaign, we continued to experience an annual loss of over $23,000.

In the summer of 2016, the Virginia Office of EMS informed the EMS Community that the Emergency Medical Services Training Funds program (EMSTF) would be transitioning to a new scholarship program.  Over the past several years, the Council has received between $30,000 and $40,000 annually in EMSTF funds.  Monies received from EMSTF were used to purchase textbooks and pay for items like background checks, drug screening, clinical attire, online test preparation, adjunct faculty salaries and more.  The EMSTF program enabled the Council to offset the true costs of EMS education allowing us to maintain very low tuition rates for the EMS educational programs we offered.

These losses have created a significant financial hardship for the Council moving forward.  In light of these significant losses, a special meeting of the Council’s Executive Committee was called. At this meeting, members of the Executive Committee received revenue forecasts and other pertinent data pertaining to the operations of the Council.  Armed with this information, the members of the Executive Committee were presented with several options which would enable to Council to continue its operations.

With due consideration to their fiduciary responsibility to the Council, the Executive Committee had to make a number of difficult decisions.  An overview of these decisions and the ramifications each will have on the Council are presented below.

  1. EMS Educational Programming – This coming fiscal year (FY17/18) will be the last year that CSEMS offers EMS educational programming to the region. The Council will conduct six (6) Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) programs during the year, with the final program being offered in the summer of 2018.
    • Initial Certification Programs – Recognizing the need for the continued availability of EMS educational programs—at both the BLS and ALS levels—the Council has negotiated with Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) to transition all EMS education programs to the college beginning in the fall of 2018. Council staff will be working closely with BRCC staff to ensure a smooth transition.   BRCC will form an EMS Programs Advisory Committee which will include EMS leadership from around the region to advise and provide input on the training needs of the region.  More information about BRCC’s new EMS program offerings will be released by the college in the coming months.
      • BRCC will offer a certificate and degree paramedic program which will make students eligible for tuition assistance in for form of scholarships and grants as well as access to student loans.
    • Continuing Education – Beginning July 1, 2017, due to staffing levels and the need to maintain contract deliverables for the Virginia Office of EMS, the Council will no longer be able to offer continuing education to the region.
      1. The Council will continue to post notices of local continuing education programs being offered throughout the region on our webpage at: https://www.csems.org/training/ce/ce-classes/
      2. The Virginia Office of EMS through an agreement with the National Registry now allow Virginia EMS providers to earn 100% of their continuing education requirements online. EMS Providers seeking online continuing education opportunities are encouraged to visit the following link to the Virginia Office of EMS which details the availability of online continuing education vendors and services.  http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/emergency-medical-services/education-certification/provider-resources/web-based-continuing-education/
  2. Pearson VUE Testing Center – The Council will work with the Virginia Office of EMS and the National Registry to transition our Pearson VUE Testing Center to Blue Ridge Community College. The timing of this transition is unknown at this time, but it will be a seamless transition with minimal interruption of testing services in the region.
  3. Council Operations – The Council will continue to operate in its present facility located in Staunton.
    1. The Council will continue to contract with the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of EMS for services to include regional planning, local medical direction through the Medical Control Review Committee (MCRC), performance improvement monitoring, regional protocol development, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) services, operation of monthly Consolidated Test Sites (CTS), operating a Regional EMS Awards program, regional RSAF grant support and grading and regional Instructor Network meetings.
    2. As approved by the Executive Committee, Council staffing will be restructured effective July 1, 2017. The Council will employ an Executive Director, Finance Manager/AHA Training Center Coordinator and an Administrative Assistant.  The Council will retain an EMS Training Specialist and BLS adjunct faculty for the next fiscal year until such time as EMS educational programming is transitioned to Blue Ridge Community College.
    3. The Council will continue to operate its American Heart Association Community Training Center. We will continue to offer CPR training courses as well as ACLS and PALS courses here in Staunton and at locations throughout the region as needed.
    4. Funding requests by the Council to agencies and local governments will cease at the completion of FY18.

In closing, we would like to reiterate that the decisions presented by management and approved by the Executive Committee were not made lightly or with haste—the Committee carefully weighed the needs of the region together with their fiduciary responsibility to the business and the financial reality facing the Council.

In our 38 year history, Central Shenandoah EMS Council has never been faced with such a significant loss of funding and support.  We are disappointed and saddened by the reduction of services and the effect these cuts will have on our region and its agencies, however without adequate financial support, these decisions had to be made in order to ensure the future viability of the Council.

Sincerely,

Gary P. Critzer, President
CSEMS Board of Directors

Chad Blosser
Executive Director

Please click here to download a PDF version of this letter.