North Adams Ambulance Service Reaps Accolades And Grant Funds

By Susan BushPrint Story | Email Story
The North Adams Ambulance Service has been named an EMS Magazine 2006 Gold Award winner. Kneeling, from left, NAAS General Manager Michael Gleason and EMT education instructor John Meaney Jr., standing from left, NAAS Treasurer Ed Nimmons, NAAS grant writer and EMT Amalio Jusino, NAAS Vice-president Dorothy Ransford, NAAS President Robert Moulton Jr., and EMT Paige Gleason.
North Adams - The North Adams Ambulance Service has been selected as an EMS Magazine 2006 Gold Award winner. The award is presented to one paid ambulance service and one volunteer service in recognition of dedication, teamwork, and a commitment to emergency medical services. Areas of award achievement include education and training, community service, technical excellence, injury and illness prevention and public education project sponsorship. The service has also been named as a recipient of a federal grant of more than $70,000. The award may be honoring the NAAS by name but the true beneficiaries are the communities that support the service and it is the communities that share in the recognition, according to ambulance service board members and emergency medical technicians who hosted a Sept. 19 media conference announcing the distinction. "This [award] represents a big team effort," said NAAS General Manager Michael Gleason, who is also a NAAS paramedic. "Squad members, board members, office staff; we've all grown over the years." City Councilor and NAAS Board of Directors President Robert Moulton Jr. said that community support and public cooperation have contributed greatly to the service's ability to grow and excel as an emergency medical services provider. Gold Standard The prestigious EMT award will be presented to nine NAAS EMTs and three NAAS board members during a Sept. 25-29 EMS EXPO held in Las Vegas. The NAAS contingent expects to arrive in Las Vegas on Sept. 26. An engraved trophy and gifts from the magazine are part of the award package. Corporate sponsors also provide gifts and discounts, according to information included in a magazine article about the award. The NAAS was honored as a paid response service; the Sterling Volunteer Rescue Squad of Sterling, Virginia was selected as the magazine's volunteer squad winner. The level of award competition may be best illustrated by a mention of the 2005 paid service winner; the Acadian Ambulance Service of Lafayette, Louisiana hosts about 1,930 employees, 200 ground vehicles, and seven helicopters. Believed to be the largest paid service in the country, Acadian serves about 3.4 million residents of portions of Louisiana and Mississippi. The NAAS is made up of about 38 employees; eight are full-time EMTs and the remaining EMT staff work as part-time personnel. The service does employ 12 paramedics and two paramedics are on duty during each shift. Included in the three-ambulance fleet is a four-wheel drive vehicle that is equipped as a patient care station and is not meant to be used as a patient transport vehicle. The unit may be brought to remote locations, Gleason said. The service responds to about 3,700 medical assistance calls on a yearly basis. Services are provided to city residents as well as residents of Clarksburg, Florida, and Stamford, Vt.. The service participates as a mutual aid provider for communities such as Williamstown and Adams. Angel On Their Shoulders The award news added a high note to what has been a roller coaster year for the 29-year-old ambulance service. Barbara N. Wagner, a NAAS founder, died earlier this year. Wagner was board president at the time of her death. She had served in that capacity for 29 years. "She had more tenure than John Barrett," said Moulton, referring to city Mayor John Barrett III, who is in the midst of an unprecedented 12th elected two-year city mayoral term. News of the Gold Award selection was delivered to the service on the day of Wagner's funeral. "The day of Barbara's funeral is the day we found out we'd won," said Gleason. "She always wanted us to be recognized for something to do with this service." NAAS board Vice-president Dorothy "Dot" Ransford called Wagner "an angel on our shoulders." "She'll be coming to Vegas with us," Ransford said. Berkshire County Service Agency of the Year The service has been selected as the 2006 Berkshire County Service Agency of the Year. That honor was announced in May, and likely contributed to the service's selection as a Gold Award winner, said Gleason and John Meaney Jr., who serves as the service's state certified EMT class instructor. Meaney submitted the necessary documentation required as part of the magazine award selection process. "John was instrumental in us getting this," said Gleason. An Evolving Service Tackles Change Meaney described the many significant changes the service has initiated, including a state 2005 accreditation that opened the door to state approval of an EMT basic and intermediate education curriculum. The training program was approved in December 2005 and its' requirements exceed state standards in the area of required instruction hours and observation experience. The NAAS program requires that those enrolled in the education program spend several hours of "ride-along" ambulance time as well as observing operations at the North Adams Regional Hospital Emergency Department. The education program likely contributed greatly to the NAAS award selection, Gleason said. In 2004, state regulations governing EMT certification classes changed, and the new regulations allowed the teaching to occur only at accredited training sites. Meaney earned certification as an instructor and NAAS officials spent nearly one year developing a curriculum and taking steps to acquire the necessary accreditations and state approvals. Currently, the NAAS is the only Berkshire region, state approved EMT teaching site. "We stepped up to the plate," Gleason said about the education program. Community Service The service is also involved with community endeavors, such as the Fall Foliage Parade and the Northern Berkshire Relay For Life, during which the service earned "silver sponsorship" by providing volunteer emergency medical coverage throughout the 18-hour event. Officials of the service are currently working with city officials and officials of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts toward designating the city as a "HeartSafe" community. An announcement about the HeartSafe program is expected within the next two weeks, said Amalio Jusino, who is a NAAS EMT as well as a Williamstown police officer and an assistant fire chief with the Pownal Protective Fire Association in Pownal, Vt.. The service offers cardiopulmonary resuscitation classes to are volunteer fire departments and EMT Robert Dobbert is a certified child safety seat technician. Dobbert has assisted with community child safety seat inspections and installations and has conducted free inspections and installations at the NAAS headquarters. The service is working to establish a formal partnership with a Northern Berkshire Respecting Other People Encouraging Self-esteem camp that is sponsored by regional law enforcement entities and supported by community donations of money and services, Gleason said. Even More Good News Jusino announced that the NAAS has been selected to receive $73,320 in federal firefighter assistance grant funds. The grant monies were originally available only to fire services. Last year marked the first time EMS providers could apply for the grant funds. Jusino said that the NAAS is honored to be chosen as a grant recipient during the second year of EMS eligibility. The bulk of the money will be used to purchase protective clothing for EMTs to wear when providing emergency medical services, Jusino said. Grant revenues will also be used to improve the EMT training and will also benefit surrounding communities, Jusino and Gleason said. About $11,000 will be used to cover the cost of training textbooks for area fire departments, said Gleason and Jusino. About $8,700 will be used to purchase an mannequin that is considered to be an advanced training tool for EMT instruction. The mannequin may be used to teach such skills IV line insertion and intubation techniques in a manner that mimics real life, said Meaney. "This will help expand our [teaching] program," Meaney said. "The realism of the mannequin is amazing." NAAS board members and EMTs who plan to attend the Las Vegas convention are Ransford, Gleason, Meaney, Jusino, board Secretary Elizabeth Milanesi, board member Steve Brown and EMTs Paige Gleason, Rob Luckritz, Josh Little, Michael Tessier, Robert Dobbert, and Tina Dobbert. The NAAS was launched in 1977. The first Board of Directors included Wagner, John R. "Jack" Leu, Leon K. Barry, Morton Freedman, Kenneth Gamache, Roberta Rubesam, Edward Nassif, T. Williams Lewis, Benjamin Apkin, and Edmund Larkin. The first "squad house" was located within the city fire station and was made by eliminating a public bathroom. The service moved to its current 10 Harris St. headquarters in 1994 after a new ambulance service building was constructed. Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail or at 802-823-9367.
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