Oklahoma First Responders Could Suffer Under Budget Cuts
TULSA, Oklahoma - Public safety agencies in Green Country are bracing for the budget blow.
First responders are expecting to be even busier and their own safety could be at risk.
EMSA crews run 100 to 150 calls every day.
That number could climb even higher.
While some agencies might shut down because of the state's budget cuts, that's not an option for first responders.
EMSA crews run 160,000 transports every year.
If mental health cuts happen, EMSA said crime, suicides and drug abuse will go up.
"Overdose, whether accidental or on purpose. Obviously the rise in opioid abuse, we see that trending," said Kelli Bruer, EMSA spokeswoman.
Leading to more calls for crews who could drive into dangerous situations.
"We could experience assault on fire and ems crews while they're responding to these calls because a person is not medicated," said Tulsa Fire Department EMSA Director Michael Baker.
Baker said the impact won't be immediate.
"Someone who is maybe sick everyday, but they let that condition get worse and worse before they see a physician," Baker said.
The need will go up, but funding for EMSA could go down.
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which administers Medicaid, is looking at $70 million in cuts.
That's where EMSA gets about 60 percent of its funding.
"We rely on those funds, and, to be the fuel for the furnace, so that we can have our resources, have our people and our trucks, and be a safety net for the community," Bruer said.
That means patients with insurance could end up footing an even bigger bill.
"We already know that Medicaid is underfunded. They do not pay us the cost of what it costs us to perform the service. The cost has to shift somewhere," Bruer said.
EMSA said if crews have to run more calls, it would need to hire more people.
But recruiting is already tough since EMSA has to compete with hospitals, doctor's offices and other public safety departments.