Editorials, Opinion

Mon EMS should be allowed to partner with sobering center

We reported Sunday that the Hope Hill Sobering Center at Hazel’s House of Hope would like to partner with Mon EMS. At the moment, only friends/family or police can drop off an intoxicated individual to sleep it off.

The entities would like to work together, but the decision is not theirs alone to make: Mon EMS must receive permission from the Medical Policy and Care Committee — the primary policy-making and advisory body concerning medical issues involving the EMS system. Current policy dictates that ambulances must transport individuals to a medical facility — which the sobering center is not.

Mon EMS plans to approach the MPCC about a waiver or pilot program that would allow the ambulance service to transport individuals to the sobering center instead of only to the local emergency room.

The MPCC should grant the request.

The original policy makes some sense, from a financial standpoint. Most insurances won’t pay for an ambulance ride unless that ride ends at a hospital or emergency room. Limiting EMS transport to medical facilities theoretically minimizes the number of uncompensated trips.

However, when Monongalia Country residents approved the EMS levy in November, they freed up Mon EMS to provide greater access services without the financial worries. The MPCC should respond in kind and allow Mon EMS to transport to the sobering center.

When you set the financial logistics aside, bringing Mon EMS on board not only makes sense, but it probably should have been done before the center opened. Who better to evaluate whether an intoxicated person needs medical attention or just time to sober up than EMS workers?

The Hope Hill Sobering Center’s primary function is to prevent overcrowding in local jails and ERs — the usual dumping grounds for drunks. Police are allowed to transport to the center; this prevents cops from having to bring every intoxicated person back to the station or down to the jail when they otherwise haven’t committed crime. By the same token, it only makes sense that EMS also be able to transport to the center; otherwise, the only options are to leave them where they are or take them to the ER, where they’ll take up space that could better serve someone having a real emergency.

With the levy in place, there shouldn’t be financial concerns, so the MPCC should approve the request (in whatever form it takes) to allow Mon EMS to partner with the sobering center. Doing so would be in the community’s best interest.