Stepping up to help Minneota
When Minneota was faced with the possibility of losing ambulance service recently, the community stepped up to the plate and rallied to form a First Responders group.
"Minneota is made up of close-knit, kind, and caring people who genuinely care about one another," said Emily Coequyt, who is Co-Director with Laura Swedzinski of the Minneota First Responders.
"An outstanding number of community members came together to help. I never would have imagined to have the turnout we did, but I am so thankful we did."
Searching for volunteers by advertising and word of mouth, there are now 25 EMT's and/or First Responders involved in the Minneota group. "I really had no idea what number to expect," Coequyt said.
"Being on the squad is a big commitment and takes a lot of time and dedication, so to have so many members take that on is truly amazing." Previously, North Memorial managed the city-run Minneota Ambulance service. When North Memorial and the City of Minneota terminated their contract, it was determined that Minneota would go from an ambulance service to a First Responder Group.
"The Minneota service has always been 'owned' by the city," explained Coequyt. "It is just a matter of who was managing/running the service.” "I don't believe it was that North Memorial no longer wanted to manage the Minneota service any longer; it was more driven by cost and lack of personnel to operate."
Three members of the Minneota First Responders are carry-overs from when it was managed by North Memorial. And of the current 25 Minneota First Responders, three are EMT's and the remaining members are First Responders. The difference between an EMT and a First Responders centers around the scope of practice and training.
"EMT's go through more hours of trainings for their certification, so naturally someone with an EMT certification had a bit broader skill set to practice," Coequyt noted. "But overall, EMT's and First Responders have much the same training." Those volunteering to become First Responders were required to complete 40 hours of training. That training was held two nights a week last winter at the high school. Upon the completion of that training, each person needed to pass an examination in order to become certified by the Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board (EMSRB). "Once they were certified, Laura and I did some field training and continue to do additional trainings on a monthly basis," said Coequyt. The official date that Minneota First Responders was up and running was Jan. 8. Coequyt and Swedzinski had been on the Minneota Ambulance team together for over 10 years. "Neither of us wanted to see (the ambulance service) go," Coequyt said.
"We did a lot of talking amongst the two of us, and with different City Council members and the City Administrator.” "We determined it would be a huge undertaking, so (Laura and I) decided we would propose taking it on as a joint venture. We were tasked with getting the service up and running. With that came meeting and tons of paperwork." Coequyt and Swedzinski also had the assistance of the various agencies, including North Memorial, Minneota Fire Department, Lyon County Sheriff's Department, the City of Minneota and more.
"The City of Minneota, along with the other agencies, were so helpful in guiding and helping us get tasks completed," Coequyt. "That included working with the State of Minnesota to determine our service area, determining inventory and supplies, setting up accounts to order supplies, getting a medical director determined and an agreement signed, getting our application into the state, radio training, pagers programmed, and so many other things."
With all that having been completed, the co-directors are now in charge of maintaining the service, managing personnel, training, meetings, paperwork, supplies, budgeting, and all that comes with managing the service. Since running a responder service is costly, the group filed and became a 501c3 non-profit organization called Minneota First Responder Group, Inc. on June 4, enabling them to hold fundraisers. Being tax-exempt also allows the Minneota First Responders to receive donations as a tax write-off.
"Our group will thrive on grants, fundraising and donations," Coequyt noted. "We don't charge for our service so all the money used for supplies, payroll, training and more has to come from somewhere.”
"The day will come when we will need to purchase 'big-ticket' items such as equipment and rig, so we figured becoming a non-profit was an appropriate step." A Board of Directors was also formed that included Coequyt, Swedzinski, Seth Myhre, Justin Pesch and Randy Hoffman. North Memorial continues to handle all calls in Minneota because the Minneota First Responders can't transport patients. But now North Memorial responds from Marshall instead of having a rig in Minneota.
"The thought of not having any emergency personnel in town is quite scary," said Coequyt. "In the event of a true emergency, time is of the essence and having people in town able to respond and get there quickly to help until North Memorial arrives is very much an advantage for our community."
North Memorial, which was extremely helpful to Minneota in the transition to a First Responders group, had 25 jackets they were no longer using and donated them to the Minneota First Responders.
"They removed the ‘North Memorial’ from the back and had ‘First Responders’ printed for us," said Coequyt.
"They are very heavy and fluorescent. These will be great for winter months." And the First Responders are great for Minneota ... all year.