Ambulance agency gives money back

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2005

To a cash-strapped county, it must have seemed like Christmas in July.

Lawrence County Commissioners learned Thursday the county is getting $384,057.74 from South East Ohio Emergency Medical Services. The money is the difference between what that entity was allotted by contract to provide ambulance service to the county during the fiscal year that ended June 30 and the amount of money it actually took to provide that service.

The part of Santa Claus, as it were, was played by Eric Kuhn, executive director for SEOEMS. Kuhn told the Lawrence County Commission Thursday that the cost of providing ambulance service to the county cost $382,509.27 less than the annual amount budgeted. Since the money has been in an interest-bearing bank account earning even more money, the amount due the county comes to $384,057.74. Commissioners have asked for the money to be returned to the county's general.

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Kuhn said there were three reasons why the ambulance service operations came in under budget.

"Medicaid made changes four or five years ago and the changes have been phased in, increasing the reimbursements for rural EMS providers. Lawrence County has a high Medicaid mix of patients," Kuhn said.

"SEOEMS also increased its rates. The station chiefs have done well with management of personnel, and overtime. Eight to $9,000 of that (amount) is due to lower personnel costs."

"It's great to get that extra money from SEOEMS," Commissioner Doug Malone said.

"You sure you don't have another couple hundred thousand you could give us?" Commissioner Jason Stephens joked with Kuhn.

The news could not have come at a better time for the county. The Lawrence County Sheriff's Office is slated to run out of money in its salaries account in early September. To keep that office operating, it will require nearly $400,000. Also, the Lawrence County Prosecutor's Office has pressed its point about being under funded by nearly $130,000 as well.

Kuhn also said Thursday that the 14 fire departments in the county that have a first responders program are getting $1,000 grants from SEOEMS.