Competition makes for inefficient EMS system in
by Troy Graham
If you were to have a heart attack at the Clarksburg
Wal-Mart, the first ambulance that would be called out would be from the
Harrison County Emergency Squad in North View even though the Anmoore emergency
squad sits less than a mile away.
Conversely, certain areas of West Milford are the first response area
for Anmoore, even though the Harrison emergency squad recently opened a
These are just some of the problems that plague
the emergency system in Harrison County, which is made up of five non-profit
ambulance services. Three for-profit ambulance companies operate here,
but they are not dispatched by 911.
It is a system in which distrust among the non-profit squads runs rampant.
An independent report released this year described fractionation and
competition between the squads that has left an inefficient system with
duplication of services, poor communication and coordination.
In addition, because of the ill feelings among the
squads, crews in some instances have called for assistance from squads
that they get along with, even if they are further away than another squad,
said Dr. Mike Hartzog, one of the authors of the report. Its bothersome
to me when I see an ambulance pass two stations on the way to help another
ambulance, he said.
The Harrison County Commission has recently asked
the EMS Authority to redraw some of the first-response lines to ensure
that the closest ambulance is the first called, and Hartzog said the assistance
problem can be easily worked out by setting up protocols with the 911
Nonetheless, these situations are symptomatic of
the overall ailments of distrust and lack of coordination in one of the
countys most vital services.
Consolidation is a 4-letter word
When the Harrison County Emergency Squad announced
in December that it was nearly broke and for-profit Jan-Care had offered
to buy it out, the county commission rallied with financial support to
keep the squad in public hands.
In todays increasingly complicated and competitive
health care world, the other four squads could eventually face a similar
situation, officials warned. Consolidating the squads emerged as the most
County officials, though, backed off of the discussion
of consolidation when it became apparent that the squads would never agree
Hartzog and Dr. Dave Anderson, the other author
of the emergency system evaluation, also shied away from consolidation
in their report. You say the word consolidation and it scares everyone,
so we tried to avoid the word, Hartzog said.
Critics of the squads say they are simply unwilling to give up their
kingdoms. The squads say as long as they are solvent, why bother them?
And, of course, there isnt much consensus among the squads.
Jeanne Edmond, the president of the Anmoore squad,
makes no apologies for taking the position for which she is criticized.
This out here is my community. I want to do whats best for them,
she said. In a way, I dont want them to come into my little kingdom.
Kelly Blackwell, the chief of the Bridgeport Fire
Department and the chairman of the EMS Authority, said there is no need
to fix what isnt broken. Why change when youre giving the service to
the community? he asked.
Edmond said she doesnt want to hear consolidation.
I hate the word. The little squads have more to lose than to gain by consolidating,
She points to a recently purchased ambulance and
fears that, under consolidation, it would be moved out of Anmoore.
We put $60,000 in that unit and if they up and consolidate, how do
the people of this town get their money back if they move it to Quiet Dell?
Edmond and the rest of the Anmoore squad dont trust
county officials to do the right thing under consolidation, largely because
they are still stinging from several years ago when they asked the county
for financial help with some tax problems. The county sent a $33 check.
They werent there to back us up, she said. We do what we have to to
In addition, the Anmoore unit is tied into the volunteer
fire department, as are units in Bridgeport and Salem. Edmond says the
ambulance and fire are so intertwined that you couldnt separate the ambulance
and expect the fire department to survive.
Blackwell said it would not only be a hardship on the fire department,
but a hardship on the citizens when you take two ambulances out of a community
that have been there for years.
Can they stay afloat?
Even if the squads wont consent to consolidation,
the squads are missing out on several opportunities to improve themselves
financially, several officials said.
For instance, the squads dont do any centralized
purchasing and they have no standard pricing in the county, Hartzog said.
Its kind of confusing, he said. I think the squad could consolidate
and get a standard price.
Blackwell, however, said the squads got a legal
opinion on standardized pricing several years ago and were told that it
amounted to price fixing and then you get in trouble with the feds.
As far as centralized purchasing goes, that is a
job left up to the county EMS director, a position that has been vacant
for two-and-half years, he said. In addition, there is no place to properly
store goods and many squads use different brands of equipment. It could
work for some things but not everything, Blackwell said.
The key to solvency, Edmond said, is to maintain
a strong volunteer, non-paid presence in the squads. Anmoore has twice
as many volunteer paramedics as paid. Edmond herself works during the day
Jan-Care is my paycheck; this is my heart, she said.
Resolving the distrust
Blackwell and others say there is cooperation among
the squads. Edmond said the actual paramedics and technicians in the field
get along well. In fact, some of the volunteers from different squads work
during the day together at for-profit companies.
It is the distrust of politics entering into emergency
services that keeps the squads from merging, Edmond said.
That sort of distrust is not uncommon, said Mark King, the director
of the state Office of EMS. He has seen it in other counties around the
state, and the state office tries to help them solve those problems.
The state has a grant that allows counties to hire
a consultant to review the entire system. With an outside consultant making
recommendations, it may be easier for the squads to accept changes, he
In fact, Edmond said she would not be opposed to
redrawing lines of first response or other changes if she thought they
would be done fairly. However, King said he has not been able to get anyones
attention with the grant.
In the end, he said, if major changes like consolidation
happen, they will have to be initiated by politicians, most likely the
Sometimes its a political nightmare, but they
have to make difficult decisions sometimes, he said. But, boy, hostile
takeovers are what youre talking about.
Police utilize Net to find
by James Fisher
For more than a year, the parents of a boy missing
from the central part of the state wondered what happened to their son
and if they would ever see him again.
Local and state police searched, but found no trace
of the boy. Then, six months ago, new computer technology enabled police
to locate the boy and his abductor in Chicago. The two met on-line, according
to police. The man apparently came to West Virginia and took the boy to
The boy is now back home with his family and in
counseling to help him deal with his months of abuse. Police are pursuing
a case against the man.
West Virginia has nearly 400 missing children and
adults, said State Police Sgt. Ric Robinson. More reports pour into state
and local police agencies daily, he said.
A non-profit computer company called ANSER is providing
computer software to the state police that will search the Internet 24
hours a day, scouring chat rooms and web sites for missing children.
The state police is one of only four law enforcement
departments receiving the software as part of a pilot program, Robinson
said. If the software proves successful, the company hopes to distribute
the system to more departments on a nationwide basis.
The FBI and the U.S. Customs Service are also getting
the program to search for missing children. South Florida Law Enforcement
is using the system strictly for drug interdiction, Robinson said.
It has shown a tremendous success rate so far,
Robinson said. It uses digital facial recognition and also identifies
certain word groups that tell the system its logged onto a kiddie porn
Once the system finds a potential match of a missing
child, it encrypts the image and sends it to the state police, along with
the identity of the person who posted the picture. Matches are encrypted
to prevent them from unintentionally being spread on the Internet, Robinson
Internet connections to crime are rising almost
as sharply as the increase in the World Wide Web, Robinson said. However,
computers are just as effective in combating crime and finding missing
children. Cyber criminals pose a serious threat to our government, businesses,
our families and our children, he said. Law enforcement officials are
losing the fight against criminals in cyberspace.
The leading cause of missing children is runaway
teen girls between the ages of 13 and 17, said Sgt. Bruce Adkins of the
state polices Missing and Exploited Children section of the Bureau of
The second leading cause is non-custodial parents not returning or
abducting children, Adkins said. The smallest category, less than 2 percent,
police have no leads, he said.
Years ago, it was generally accepted that if a
child was with a parent, they were safe, Robinson said. Were finding
out that is not always the case. Its amazing what some parents will do
to children to get back at the other spouse.
State police registers list four children currently missing from Harrison
County, including one reported Friday. Kanawha, Cabell and Jefferson counties
account for nearly one-third of all children reported missing in the state,
Adkins said. The main reason is juvenile shelters located in those counties.
One fallacy concerning missing children that Robinson
wants to dispel is the 24-hour rule. Many people believe from television
that a person must be missing for 24 hours before a report can be filed,
he said. That is not true in West Virginia and never has been, he said.
Time is of the essence, he said. Every minute we have to look, it increases
the chances of the person being found.
Cyber predators could become a big problem in the
not-too-distant future, Adkins said. The Internet is bringing the criminal
right into your home, and thats the problem, he said.
In the last year, cyber predators have been blamed
for three or four missing children in the state. Several more children
who met someone on-line were not actually abducted, but they could have
been, Adkins said. There are probably other incidents that were not even
reported because the child returned home within several days.
Anytime a child is missing longer than three to
five days, we tend to take a harder look at it in regards to possible foul
play, he said. Most of the time, the investigation of a murdered child
starts as a missing person report.
Ramp dinner raises needed
funds for community center
by Gail Marsh
Whether boiled, fried or eaten raw, John Mazzie loves
ramps. Ive had them four times this week already. I love them fried in
bacon grease and topped with cheese, or with eggs, or just any old way,
the Flemington resident said.
Ramp season is just getting underway, and people
lined up at the Haymond Community Building near Grafton on Sunday to enjoy
a dinner featuring the taste of the strong-smelling cousin of the wild
Mazzie said volunteers from the non-profit Taylor
Development Group, Inc. were hosting the dinner to raise funds to support
the community center. Dinners have been held monthly at the center since
the school was purchased by the group from the Taylor School Board almost
two years ago, Mazzie said.
The dinner boasted ramps served in bowls raw or
fried with potatoes, along with roast pork, soup beans, applesauce, cornbread
and a table full of desserts. The turnout appeared to be a record for the
center located in a former elementary school along U.S. Route 119.
I guess were one of the first organizations this
year to host a ramp dinner, so people were anxious to come out and try
them. Looks like well serve more than 300 people by the time the day is
over, Mazzie said.
The kitchen was abuzz with volunteers on Sunday,
who were doing everything from mixing up a batch of coleslaw to breaking
eggs for yet another pan of cornbread.
Ruth Malone was right at home in the middle of the
hubbub. The former cook was employed at Haymond Elementary School for 17
years where she kept busy feeding the schools 120 children. I never had
this much help when I was feeding the kids, Malone said, laughing.
Leona Phillips helped on the serving line, dishing
out hot bowls of steaming beans to complement the rest of the meal. She
said this would probably be one of the best fund raisers for the center
So many of us here attended this old school. Were
working to make it a successful community center in order to keep this
place alive, she said.
A steady line of diners streamed into the schools
front hallway all afternoon, and those who were finished with their meals
stopped to talk on the way out with friends and neighbors. Burton Lane,
in town on business from Heath, Ohio, told the volunteers they were doing
a super job. This has got to be the best homecooked meal Ive had in years.
Its better than what my grandmother used to make, Lane said.
Bob Knotts, president of the Taylor Development
Group Inc., said the fund raiser will help replace the centers furnace,
install new windows or make repairs to the parking lot. He said people
from all over Taylor County are working to make the old Haymond school
one of the nicest community centers around.
Theres a real need for places like this to help
people stay in touch. Thats what we want to do, to have more things here
to bring the community together, he said.
Weston police are trend-setters, not trend followers
by Torie Knight
When Weston Police Chief Robby Clem took office about
two years ago, he worried about the condition of the department.
The cruisers were getting older. The officers needed equipment.
Knowing that the Weston City Council was flirting
with a deficit and wouldnt be able to hand out money, Clem and Officer
Brian Kunkel started looking for grants.
In the last three years, they have applied for more
than $190,000 in grants, many of which they have received. They have purchased
new cruisers and equipment. Now, the Weston Police Department is going
a step farther.
Clem said the officers have plans to initiate a
program similar to D.A.R.E. that will take officers into local schools.
They are applying for grants to start a bicycle patrol. And, an $8,000
grant is in the works for a K-9 unit a unit that can detect both drugs
and bombs. The area doesnt have any bomb detection dogs. We want to be
a trend setter, not a trend follower, Kunkel said. Clem classifies his
department as being young and aggressive.
The five officers run 24-hour shifts, 7 days a week.
They put an average of 150 to 200 miles on a vehicle each day all for
$6.89 an hour. We do the best we can, Clem said.
Some of the department improvements include new
jackets, rechargeable flash lights, new uniforms, gloves and cruisers.
Clem said it is one step and one grant at a time.
Some recent grants for the Weston Police Department include:
a $5,000 West Virginia Highway Safety DUI grant for overtime funds.
a $20,000 Law Enforcement Block Grant to purchase four new radios
and a police cruiser.
a $6,000 Federal Clean Air Act grant that will go toward the purchase
of a natural gas cruiser.
a $10,000 West Virginia Highway Safety Program grant to purchase
in-car camera and radar units.
$5,000 from the State Budget Digest for new weapons.
a $35,000 Governors Community Partnership Grant for one fully-equipped
cruiser, a computer for the secretary, two in-car video camera and radar
units and two preliminary breath tests.