In the last five years, crime stories we report on are indeed becoming more disturbing. In the last six months we have seen a slew of crime involving sexual assaults. The most upsetting story that has ever come across my desk was this week's article involving the severe abuse of a toddler. (Read more about this story in this week's edition). These stories beg the question, why is this happening?
There is a cohering effect in participation, in questioning authority and speaking one's mind in public discourse that always rewires the community mindset. No one person always gets it right. Nor can one often be on the "winning" side. At some point you have to support a thing that is right for the greatest number of residents.
This past weekend I climbed Mt. Adams, a peak I aspired to summit more than seven years ago.
EMS levy is coming up
On July 6 Messrs. Brennan and Bucholz urged waiting until the November election to decide the future of EMS. They argued there was no 2017 district budget. Mr. Bucholz went further, calling the commissioners "deceitfully irresponsible" for having no budget, and accusing them of "half-truths" and "lies."
How strange. When I left San Juan Island just a little over 2 years ago, this island had a very strong EMS system that had the overwhelming support of the community. I had the great fortune of working side by side with amazing paramedics and volunteer EMT's. I don't say this lightly: this is an amazing group of people dedicated to helping their friends and neighbors at all hours of the day. I have recently returned to work as a flight nurse with Island Air Ambulance and am saddened by the animosity and rancor surrounding the upcoming levy. Now, I'm no fan of the previous EMS chief who I feel helped create this environment of mistrust in our EMS system. He is long gone however and budgets have been trimmed and cutbacks have been made. We still have a very strong EMS system and that is a blessing. I have worked in 5 different emergency departments in NW Washington and can say that San Juan Island EMS delivers excellent pre-hospital care. Do we really want to lose this high caliber pre-hospital care? I'm at a loss to explain why we are on the brink of losing such a great EMS system. Any of these paramedics could work in any EMS system in the country (and get a pay increase in many places!) and we are at risk of losing them, why? Because some in the community don't want to pay what it costs to run a great EMS system. Others want to arm-chair quarterback a public agency's budget and start to micro-manage line by line costs. Quality isn't cheap. Living wages with decent benefits aren't cheap. Of course, San Juan EMS is not perfect and public scrutiny is a good thing. I'm not saying that taxpayers shouldn't hold government agencies accountable. But I think we have done that already by turning down the two previous EMS levies. Vote yes to save this EMS system that exists solely to come to help you out on your worst days. When my mom, Mary Frances (ye s THAT Mary Frances) calls 911, I want the best crew possible to arrive at her door with excellent, well maintained equipment, knowing that she has the best chance at survival. We have that now and I don't want to lose it. Please vote YES to keep our current, excellent EMS system.
Concerns have been raised about the transparency of the budget for our EMS. On their website my husband and I were able to get all of our questions answered. Our questions were no different than the other readers. They have cut staff and salaries from a couple of years ago. They are providing fantastic care; a friend lives 10 minutes from my house in town, but EMS responded to her emergency in five minutes. I can't give medical details on my patients but I am one of the therapists who treats people who were saved by our EMS. They do a fabulous job and deserve to continue. The difficulty of having a large Medicaid population is that the EMS does not get paid; our property taxes have to make up that difference. Time is of the essence in an emergency, depleting the resources by lowering the levy to 35 cents would require drastic cuts in our care. Our senior population is numerous. We need EMS at the higher levy level. I invite skeptics to look at response times and death rates in Tacoma, where they have privately funded EMS. We have a lot more to lose than a couple hundred bucks.
I have a solution to the EMS Levy. Let's just get rid of it! Instead, let's make EMS a voluntary service that you can subscribe to or not. For those of us who want a professional EMS to show up at our door in a matter of minutes with just a phone call, then we can opt in and have that service added to our property taxes. For those who don't want EMS services, they can opt out, and choose to pay for it if and when they might need it. Consider this, if you opt out, and your grandmother is here visiting for one of our busy holidays, and chokes on your special margarita mix and goes into cardiac arrest, you can still call 911 and ask for help. The 911 operator will ask your name and check if you are a subscriber, and if not, then they will ask for a valid credit or debit card, including pin number. While they are verifying the charges, your grandmother is on the floor looking at you for help. Oh wait, it's the holiday weekend and all of a sudden there are more calls into 911 at the same time as your call. You are placed on hold as you are not a subscriber to 911 services. As you listen to the pleasant music, the 911 operator is helping two or three other callers who are subscribers and you are put at the end of the que until they can help you. Since this is an optional program 911 EMS services have been cut way back, and they really can only handle the subscribers that are paying, so those who have opted out have to wait until all of the subscribers have been taken care of. You say I don't have a favorite grandmother, and besides, I could just load granny into my Subaru and head over to the hospital, because I am already paying for that, then stop at the library because I am paying for that also or move to Anacortes because I am sure they have free EMS.
Save EMS. Vote Yes
Fact vs Opinion
EMS – will it survive even with a levy increase?-letters
We are fortunate for our EMS
Imagine your 80-year-old great grandmother awoke one night with chest pains and was worried it was a heart attack. Her 85-year-old husband, who suffers from a shattered vertebra in his neck, was unable to drive her to the emergency room. She called 911 and minutes later a volunteer EMT was at her door and began basic life-saving protocols. Minutes later an ambulance arrived with two paramedics who stabilized her and transported her safely to Peace Island Hospital for further care. What if when she dialed 911 there were no EMTs? No paramedics? No ambulance?
- The seventh in a series of articles about elections in Washington State by San Juan County Auditor F. Milene Henley. The County Auditor administers elections and voter registration in the County.
We all look forward to summer, but it's easy to forget that it can be a time of stress for young families. Many parents are working long hours while school is out and their childcare options may be limited. United Way of San Juan County recognizes the importance of providing safe, structured activities for children and working parents in our community during the summer months. United Way's support of our Youth Mentoring Program enables school-aged kids – mostly from single-parent families – to be paired one-on-one with an adult mentor. Together, Mentor and Mentee meet weekly to do everything from hiking to summer reading, as well as getting involved in wonderful 4-H activities. Likewise, United Way funding enables our center to offer free parent-child playgroups four mornings a week through our Family Support Program, providing valuable time for new parents (and grandparents!) to connect with one another while their infants and preschoolers build social skills through cooperative play and group activities. It's a terrific way for families to stay connected even when schools are closed for the summer. We encourage community members to support United Way of San Juan County and the efforts they make to ensure that local families have access to active, healthy summer activities.
Voters deserve the truth
The UW's Friday Harbor Labs Science Outreach Program (FHLSOP) is delighted to receive funds from the San Juan Island Community Foundation's Women's Fund for three important program needs; loupes, lifejackets and the cost of printed materials. The Outreach Program uses the loupes for their 1st grade project with Friday Harbor Elementary School (FHES) students. These 1st grade students team-up with UW Marine Biology students as they learn how to use the loupes to answer questions of their magnified world.
Our newly constituted Hospital District Board of Commissioners, with three members elected in the wake of widespread discontent with the transition to the new hospital and management of EMS by previous leadership, is asking us to authorize an increased levy for emergency services.
Call me skeptical, but it appears that San Juan Island EMS is asking the taxpayers to go round three on raising their levy 42% based on just their word. To date, there is no approved and final budget for 2017 or even an updated budget for 2016 to evaluate whether EMS is actually fiscally responsible this go around.