By Debra Moore
Local EMTs have an excellent opportunity to become paramedics — locally and at no cost — thanks to a federal grant designed to support rural emergency medical services.
Sam Blesse, a paramedic with Plumas District Hospital’s Care Flight Ground, submitted the grant application along with Sarah Richards from Plumas Rural Services, back in January and learned that they were successful this week.
“This is a great opportunity for local EMTs,” Blesse said. Typically, the program to become a paramedic costs about $11,000. With this grant, the class is being offered at no charge.
In addition to the EMTs employed by Care Flight Ground, the program is now open to local volunteer fire departments in Plumas, Lassen and Sierra counties.
“In a nutshell, this grant will help subsidize a local training program for Plumas County paramedics,” said Darren Beatty, chief operating officer for Plumas District Hospital. “Paramedics are a critical resource in rural communities and it is extremely challenging to maintain sufficient staffing for our EMS needs. This grant should go a long way in shoring up our paramedic needs.”
Blesse said that 11 individuals have signed up to take the course that will be offered three days a week at Plumas Rural Services in Quincy, but there is room for more to attend. Without this opportunity, those wanting to study to become a paramedic would have to travel to Chico or Reno. “That can impose a hardship,” Blesse said.
The basic paramedic training will take a year and include in-class instruction, clinical rotations, and field training. Blesse admits it’s an intensive program. “It’s a lot but they can get it done,” he said of the program participants.
There is a shortage of paramedics nationwide and this grant takes away two of the most often cited reasons why local EMTs don’t pursue becoming a paramedic — the cost and the travel commitment.
An EMT provides basic life support such as administering oxygen and bandages, while a paramedic offers advanced life support. “It’s basically a mobile emergency room,” Blesse said. Paramedics also can receive additional training to become critical care paramedics, which would enable patients to be transported by ambulance in many situations rather than having to call for a helicopter.
In addition to the paramedic training, a portion of the grant will be devoted to mental health training and will be offered to various staff and first responders. That’s because the $164,450 grant is being issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) Rural Emergency Medical Services.
In announcing the grant award to his constituents, Congressman Doug LaMalfa said, “Rural residents in Plumas County have been through immense trauma due to catastrophic wildfires. I am pleased that this grant will be used to ensure emergency responders can be better equipped to serve those in need of emergency health services tailored to mental health or substance abuse intervention needs.”
Sam Blesse asks that anyone interested in the paramedic training program to contact him by email: [email protected]