Twelve-county area supplements funding and provides stress management
By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
There are more than 250 first response agencies in a 12-county region of Minnesota which includes Morrison County.
The Central Minnesota EMS Region is one of eight regions in Minnesota, all funded through state grants. It includes Benton, Cass, Crow Wing, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena and Wright counties. The region spans 11,867 square miles with more than 600,000 residents, making it Minnesota’s second largest region in population.
The agencies involved are law enforcement, fire and rescue, ambulance services and first response teams. Two-thirds of these are considered to be volunteer groups.
The Central EMS Region is governed by a joint powers board, with a commissioner from each county serving on the board.
There is also a regional EMS advisory committee made up of two EMS team members from each county. One of Morrison County’s representatives on the committee is Nancy Rinkel, who has been a first responder for 18 years.
There are three main ways the Region serves local agencies. The first is a training reimbursement program with a goal of including 75 percent of the eligible agencies during each grant cycle.
“We don’t want any agency to cease operations because they lacked funding to train their employees,” said Marion Larson, regional EMS coordinator.
Grant funding is also provided for equipment needs as they arise.
“Last year, we provided grant dollars for radios and pagers that are 800 megahertz-compatible,” said Larson.
The spring 2013 grant was open to all patient care equipment or communication equipment needs.
A third major component of the EMS regional support is provided for critical stress incident management (CSIM).
The CSIM team is comprised of 31 volunteers with a background in mental health response to accidents or deaths. The goal of the team is to reduce the impact of stress from critical incidents on the responder, his or her family and the community.
The team members meet with emergency response groups after a critical incident for debriefing.
“We want to reduce the effects of stress on agencies,” Larson said. “There were 44 callouts in 2012.”
“I’ve been glad to do it,” Rinkel said. “We’ve helped so many people over the years, not just at home such as older people falling, but also with car accidents and other injuries. Having the medical background has also helped around the farm with accident prevention and help with injuries.”
The Region is looking to the future by addressing recruitment and retention challenges by area agencies and continuing to provide relevant educational opportunities.
“The Central Region and Marion do a tremendous job,” said Commissioner Jeff Jelinski. “It takes a special person to meet with people who’ve just experienced a traumatic event; they are second to none.”
Morrison County’s EMS council meets every other month, facilitated by Jerri Hoose, administrative support person in the Public Health department.
“I’m always very impressed at the responders’ dedication to Morrison County residents,” Hoose said. “It’s their quick response to incidents and their willingness to help others on a volunteer basis. They make sacrifices to put other people first.”
Anyone interested in volunteering with their local First Response team can call (320) 632-6664 and ask for Jerri.