image description
The Senate passed the amendment as part of the health care bill Thursday evening.

Senate Passes Amendment To Help Volunteer Ambulance Services

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
Print Story | Email Story
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Some relief for struggling volunteer services is making its way through the legislative process.
The state Senate passed a health care bill Thursday night which included an amendment from Sen. Adam Hinds that alleviates the staffing requirements of an ambulance in rural towns. Currently, two emergency medical technicians are required to be on every basic life support transport.
Hinds amendment will alleviate that requirement in rural towns to allow for a first responder to drive the ambulance instead of an EMT. Now the health care bill moves to the House of Representatives for approval and Hinds is confident that the amendment will pass there too.
"Many of the small towns in Western Mass have volunteer ambulance services. As a result, meeting these requirements means waiting longer," Hinds said on Friday. 
Lanesborough's ambulance service has been struggling in recent years. Part of the reason is a drop off in answering calls. Most of the volunteers work during the day and when a call comes in, often there aren't two EMTs available.
There are only six or seven active EMTs on the volunteer service to answer the call but there are some 30 volunteer firefighters who are trained first responders. There are times when a single EMT is available to work the back of the rig and care for the patient but the law required another EMT to be the driver.
Hinds amendment allows for those first responders to drive the rig on those occasions.
"This is a great example of how there are a lot of laws in Massachusetts that don't apply to small towns," Hinds said.
In a town like Lanesborough, if two EMTs aren't available an out of town ambulance has to respond. That lengthens the wait time for a patient and the local ambulance service loses out on business.
Hinds' amendment being passed as part of the health care bill is the first step in what has been a six-year process. Back in 2011, former state Sen. Benjamin Downing filed a bill requesting to alleviate the requirement.
The Department of Public Health had concerns with it. State Rep. Paul Mark worked on catering the bill to specifically rural areas, putting in limits on the use of first responders to only towns with a population of 3,000 people or less or with a density of fewer than 500 residents per square mile. Yet, that still didn't pass.
Hinds and Mark both re-filed the bill at the state of this legislative session but it hadn't gotten much traction. As the health care bill came up, Hinds used the opportunity to amend that bill to make the change.
"Until now the focus has been on bills, trying to get bills through the Senate and the House and it faced difficulties," Hinds said.
The senator said he also reached out the Department of Public Health to find a way to alleviate its concerns. Ultimately, the amendment added language that gives the medical director at the local hospital an approval authority of first responders on the ambulance ahead of time. That is already being done with the EMTs and will now extend to the first responders.
The amendment does include a restriction to towns with less than 500 residents per square mile.
"This is aimed at towns using a volunteer service," Hinds said.
Lanesborough fits that density and town officials have been keeping a close eye on the ambulance service's response rate. Last month, the Selectmen said the service was going in the right direction with responses. This bill could be a game changer for keeping that local service alive.
And Lanesborough isn't the only town struggling to keep the volunteer ambulance running. Charlemont and Hawley had both been seeking ways to avoid shutting down the services. Village Ambulance in Williamstown was facing a financial burden and is now merging with North Adams Ambulance Service.
The health care bill now moves to the House of Representatives. Hinds said he expects the House to take it up in the new year and if the amendment stays all the way through to the passage of the health care bill, the ambulance services could start using first responders by the end of 2018.
Comments welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to

Pascual-Polanco Brothers Sentenced to Life for 2019 Homicide

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Chiry Omar Pascual-Polanco and Carlos Pascual-Polanco on Thursday were given life sentences without possibility for parole for the murder of 18-year-old Jaden Salois in 2019.

The brothers lured Salois, of Dalton, outside a Pittsfield home for a false drug deal and shot him in the back in the early morning hours on Jan. 20, 2019. Prosecutors say the killing was over allegations of stolen marijuana. 
During the sentencing at Berkshire Superior Court, several of Salios' family members gave impact statements that detailed his kind disposition and hopes for the future. They said it was unfair for him to be robbed of it.

"A piece of me is gone that will never be replaced," his mother Megan Bernardini wrote.

"Over the past 3 1/2 years, me and my family have experienced endless sleepless nights and have had never-ending thoughts of why this happened to Jaden and why this happened to us," his cousin Brianna Crucitti said. "We still don't know why it happened to him or why it happened to us."

Family members of Chiry Omar, 26, and Carlos, 22, called the verdict is an injustice, arguing that there was not sufficient provable evidence and that the brothers are innocent.  

They did not speak at the sentencing but offered statements to iBerkshires afterward.

Sister Marisela Pascual knew that she and her brothers had "no fighting chance" for their lives in this community and said it is clear that they didn’t commit the crime.

View Full Story

More State Stories