The Journal ran an article this weekend discussing the possibility of closing the jail and sending dispatch to Butler County or some other agency. One article can’t do justice to that issue.
We are working on multiple public safety initiatives with the first hope of reducing calls for service in police and fire, reducing the costs and crimes associated with heroin addiction, and ultimately reducing the need and demand on public safety forces. That has to happen before we can really start to analyze whether changing the way we dispatch calls and jail arrestees will result in benefits to the City long term.
In fire, we went to first emergency first, which changed the way we dispatched manpower and equipment. The public often saw a fire engine following along behind an ambulance on the way to a call. This puts unneeded miles on the fire engine and reduces the life of our equipment. By not dispatching fire equipment on EMS calls, we reduce the overall dispatched vehicles and start to save money and wear and tear on our fire apparatus.
We are discussing automatic aid agreements and community paramedicine concepts with Monroe to expand service and efficiency in both communities. Community paramedicine is a new and evolving model of health care in which paramedics function outside their customary emergency response and transport roles. The purpose is to facilitate more appropriate use of emergency care resources and enhance access to primary care for medically underserved populations. These programs often take advantage of locally developed collaborations among emergency medical services and other health care and social service providers.
Community paramedicine can include prehospital services such as transporting patients with specified conditions not needing emergency care to alternative locations, releasing an individual at the scene of an emergency response rather than transporting them, or helping frequent 911 callers to access primary care or other social services. CP also can include post-hospital services such as follow-up care for recently discharged patients, chronic condition support, and preventive care.
Ohio recently passed legislation making this program possible and we are talking to our neighbors and Atrium Medical Center to evaluate the concept for Middletown. In other states. it has provided superior health care, reduced response times, and reduced EMS and Emergency Room costs by millions of dollars annually.
In Police, we have activated a Community Oriented Policing task force to attack flare ups in crime. We are mapping crime quarterly and discussing with duty officers where and what types of problems are affecting police service “this week.” The task force evaluates who, what and where the problems are occurring and takes action to stop whatever issue is pressing at the moment. Calls for police service and crime are both down through the first six months of this year.
We are also putting together a community plan resulting from our series of Heroin Summits this year. As the details and funding come together, we hope to see reductions in addiction and thefts resulting from drug abuse in 2016.
The article mentioned reducing public safety costs from 72% to 60% of General Fund expenditures. One of the other major ways that will happen is by expanding Economic Development activities and bringing new jobs and income tax to the City. If the overall General Fund pie is getting bigger each year through development, then the public safety piece of the larger pie will be a smaller percentage of the total expenditures each year.
We haven’t paved our roads well or dealt with water and sewer infrastructure for decades. If we are going to make a meaningful change in those areas, we will need to divert more general fund dollars from public safety to infrastructure costs. The average community in the United States spends 57% of it’s General Fund each year on public safety. They have already made the changes in technology and manpower necessary to maintain public infrastructure. We have to do the same thing over time.
The Journal made the discussion sound imminent. I see this as a five year, perhaps even a 7-8 year process. When crime is down and calls for service reach a point where it is more cost effective to contract them out than to provide them in-house, you’ll see a proposal to make some type of change.
As I keep saying, you can’t fix Middletown on Thursday. it’s going to take years of doing the right thing every day to move us back to sustainability. We are step one or two of the ten steps to do that.
Have faith, things are improving.