Taking the Pulse

EMS Collaboration Opportunities in Jefferson County

October 2020


This study was launched in January 2020 to examine the state of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Jefferson County and possible options to enhance regional collaboration and service levels. The study was commissioned by Jefferson County as a follow-up to a similar research project in 2019 that explored the potential for service sharing among all of the major municipal functions in the county, based on functional areas identified by county and municipal administrators. That project resulted in the release of Greater Than the Sum in February 2020, a report that found particular opportunities in the area of fire and rescue services and that further supported the deeper dive into EMS that is undertaken in this report.

Consideration of shared or consolidated local government services has become commonplace in recent years across the state of Wisconsin. In light of strict property tax levy limits facing Wisconsin municipalities and increasing costs associated with new technologies and service expectations, many communities are facing difficult decisions regarding their ability to maintain their existing array of services. Consolidation or enhanced service sharing with neighboring municipalities may offer an opportunity to spread the cost of certain municipal services across multiple jurisdictions while increasing administrative efficiency and achieving even higher service levels.

EMS is a service area that is experiencing particular strain in light of growing calls for service, technological advances that may require increased investment, and the difficulty of attracting and retaining highly-trained personnel. Also, Jefferson County was particularly eager to consider its EMS delivery system in light of the elimination of a paramedic intercept program that was operated from 2000 to 2018 by Fort HealthCare. Under that program, the health system provided licensed paramedics to meet local rescue services on route to the hospital as a free service. The program was transitioned to the city of Jefferson in 2019 using a fee-for-service model. Its usage has diminished in 2020 due to funding constraints, generating new questions about how best to provide both basic and advanced life support services across the county going forward.

This report does not offer a single recommended solution to the various challenges identified. Rather, it lays out a range of options for decision makers to consider. The options included both changes that could be implemented relatively quickly and easily as well as long-term solutions that may require more comprehensive changes to existing operations and governance structures. We also offer some potential policy changes that could be pursued at the state level to further enhance EMS services in Jefferson County and other parts of the state. Continue reading…