Allentown First Aid Squad requests additional funding

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ALLENTOWN – The president of the Allentown First Aid Squad, which provides emergency medical responses in Allentown and Upper Freehold Township, is asking officials in both towns for an increase in financial support this year.

Squad President Mike Conroy appeared before the Allentown Borough Council on Nov. 14. It was his second appearance in two months before the governing body.

Conroy said the first aid squad is seeking an additional combined $50,000 in financial support from the two municipalities for 2017. He previously said Upper Freehold is providing $80,000 and Allentown is providing $29,000 in 2017.

Based on the current level of support from each municipality, Allentown officials estimated this request would cost the borough about $13,500 more this year.

Conroy said he has made the same request in Upper Freehold.

The first aid squad is partially supported through contributions provided by the Township Committee in Upper Freehold Township and the Borough Council in Allentown.

Council members discussed the request for additional funding and said they will consider it with several conditions, including seeing the first aid squad’s business plan for 2018, seeing a plan to cover financial shortages, and receiving monthly or quarterly reports from the organization.

Conroy said the squad is planning to host more social events – the exact nature of the events is to be determined – as a means of fundraising. He said corporate gift matching will be pursued and a professional grant writer will be engaged to seek additional financial assistance.

Conroy informed Mayor Greg Westfall, council members and members of the public on Nov. 14 that within the past month the squad had lost an ambulance to engine failure. He said delivery of a new vehicle, at a cost of about $300,000, is expected in December.

“I think we have done everything we committed to do” to remain viable “and we are asking both municipalities to consider $50,000 above the 2017 contribution,” he said.

Councilman Thomas Fritts said the governing bodies of both towns and the first aid squad’s administrators must maintain open lines of communication in order to continue to address issues associated with the squad’s operation.

First aid squad volunteers respond to calls between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and paid employees respond to calls between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Annual staffing costs amount to about $130,000, Conroy has said.

“Having volunteers on during the day used to work, but it is not working anymore,” he told the governing body. “People have had to go back to work. However, if volunteers are available during the day they can still ride” with the paid responders.

Conroy described the time between 6-8 p.m. – when volunteers are responsible for responding to calls – as a gap in coverage and said that “is a scramble time for the squad.”

He said plans are moving forward to institute billing for the squad’s services. Conroy has said if a resident of Allentown or Upper Freehold Township receives services from the first aid squad, that individual’s insurance company will be billed.

He said the squad may receive a payment from the insurance company which may not cover the total amount billed. If that occurs, the patient will be billed for the balance, but if that Allentown or Upper Freehold Township resident does not pay the balance, the squad will write off the unpaid amount, he said.

In cases that do not involve a resident of Allentown or Upper Freehold Township, for example, if the first aid squad responds to a call for assistance in neighboring Robbinsville, the patient’s insurance company will be billed.

If the insurance company does not pay the bill in full, the patient will be billed for the balance. If that individual does not pay his portion, the bill will be sent to a collection agency, according to Conroy.

Following Conroy’s presentation on Nov. 14, a motion was made and passed by council President Wil Borkowski, Councilwoman Angela Anthony, Councilman Robert Strovinsky, Councilwoman Johnna Stinemire and Fritts to endorse the plans Conroy discussed, to make the council’s action known to officials in Upper Freehold and to continue to address issues relating to emergency response coverage in Allentown that have been a topic of discussion this year.