HINSDALE, N.H. >> Although emergency services have traditionally been under the purview of fire departments, the Hinsdale Board of Selectmen recently decided to make its police department the town's front line for emergency response.
The decision was made by the board during a Dec. 14, 2015, meeting, but has not been finalized yet.
According to Volunteer Fire Chief, Jay Matuszewski, he had requested an additional $5,000 for his department's budget to cover additional emergency medical calls in 2016. Instead, he learned that the fire department budget's was reduced by about $15,000 — cut from salaries and training — because first response will soon be the responsibility of the Hinsdale Police Department.
Police Chief Todd Faulkner told the Reformer the reason for the change is because his department is a 24/7 department. With more staffing immediately available, officers are able to respond to both medical and crime calls within minutes.
"It has nothing to do with fire department, we'll still work hand in hand with them, their response is more for priority one calls," said Faulkner. "They are still going to respond in the capacity they can; we're just doing this so we can respond to every medical call, We're doing this because we're 24/ 7 and be able to get there very quickly."
Faulkner said there is a "rule of thumb" for medical emergencies: For every minutes that passes, there is a 10-percent lesser chance of survival. He provided the example that if a responder arrives to a scene within eight minutes, an individual has a 20-percent lesser chance of living. Faulkner said in his research, he found his department has an average response time of four minutes.
Faulkner said he spent two weeks looking at five years of historical data to find consistent trends to all calls in Hinsdale. He deciphered how many times they were called two, three or four times per day, and which were the days that were toned more frequently. He presented his findings at the Dec. 14 meeting along with the proposed $42,678 emergency services budget, which he says includes salary, advanced training, radio, uniform and medical equipment. The Board of Selectmen approved the budget at that meeting. At Town Meeting, the issue was discussed further, but it was eventually approved.
According to Faulkner, Emily Yelle, was hired as their training coordinator and she will be paid about $6,000 per year.
In terms of equipment changes, the Police Department will now carry Narcan, opiate antidote that treats narcotic overdose in an emergency situation. For the first time they will also be licensed at Advanced Life Support, which allows them to carry special medications that can save a life.
"I agree 100-percent that police officers should be able to use Narcan," said Matuszewski.
While Matuszewski agrees with that upgrade, he said he feels the old model for emergency services worked well and this change will cost the town financially. He is also slightly annoyed that new emergency responders will receive $14 an hour while on scene, while in the past, his responders were getting $10, "which is kind of slap in face for us who have been doing it for a long time.
"It's been such an irritation to me, I've been doing this in a cost effective manner, but everyone said, 'No, we'll let the PD do it,' and then cut our budget," said Matuszewski.
Further, Matuszewski said the cut in medical training is a burden to the department if the volunteers want to expand their knowledge of emergency services. "I still need to keep my people trained, they want to do more, but if you start tying their hands — I don't know, I was kind of flabbergasted."
Despite any irritation, Matuszewski said their department will continue to work with other responders and serve the community. "We're going to do what we've always done, work with Rescue Inc. As they request our assistance we will respond and sometimes we'll be first on the scene."
Faulkner said he is looking for anyone with medical certification to join his department as an emergency responder. Anyone who wants to apply can call hime at 603-336-5723, ext. 181.
Faulkner predicts they will hear back from the state of New Hampshire this month about receiving an official license, which will allow anyone with medical certification to join the team as an emergency responder.
Matuszewski noted that he also requested $44,000 for their truck maintenance because the person who handled that task left, but the fire department received only about $24,000 for their truck maintenance.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275