More part-timers added to county's EMS enhancement program

Jan. 14—Two new part-time employees have been added to the sheriff's office to help with Jasper County's EMS enhancement program, bringing the total number of staff responding to or assisting rural medical emergencies to four. There are still two other part-time positions on the team which have yet to be filled.

The Jasper County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 10 approved the hiring resolutions of Justin Smith and Logan Derry, who will serve as part-time advanced life providers/paramedics at a standard pay rate of $21 per hour, effective Jan. 28 and 29, respectively.

Dennis Simon, director of human resources for Jasper County, said the two new recruits will join paramedics Steve Ashing and Jacob Halferty, who have beencarrying out the advance life support pilot program since its launch last year. When the two new recruits are trained, the county will fill the other two positions.

Four applicants were considered for the two part-time positions. Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty said Smith and Derry are full-time firefighter/paramedics and both started out in the volunteer services. John Halferty was confident the two recruits would be a good investment for the county.

"They already know the system, they know the protocols, they know the challenges," John Halferty said. "We're excited to be able to add them and then down the road once we get them on board if we continue to see the need I think we need to fill the other two positions."

Jasper County Supervisor Doug Cupples participated in a ride-along with one of the paramedics, adding that Ashing and Jacob Halferty also assist with other duties outside of EMS services. John Halferty said the two new positions will be prioritizing EMS issues and their vehicles will be badged differently.

"It won't look like a law enforcement vehicle, it'll look like an EMS vehicle," he said. "But they'll have the same duties. There may be some more down time for them, but we're looking at incorporating some training and some other ideas in with the hours they're going to spend."

The new part-timers are going to work four to six days a month in between working their full-time jobs, similarly to Ashing and Jacob Halferty who serve on the Newton Fire Department. With all four part-timers on staff, the sheriff said there will be 20 to 25 days a month covered.

Jasper County Supervisor Denny Stevenson praised the work of the part-timers, saying he hopes everyone realizes how fortunate the county is to have the sheriff take an interest in improving EMS enhancement services. Stevenson, who has worked with Kellogg volunteer teams, knows how tough it is for these entities.

"We've got some great people out there, but they're getting fewer and fewer all the time," Stevenson said. "I really think you're going to find this in a lot of (counties) and start using it around the state. It's not every sheriff that will take this on. But I greatly appreciate that. It's filling that need."

Simon said the public employer labor group he belongs to holds a monthly Zoom chat. At a recent meeting, others were asking Simon about the program. Several other human resources groups were interested and amended their agenda so Simon could fill them in on the pilot program.

"It truly sounds like we will be a model," he said. "There are a lot counties that are talking about this and trying to give additional help. It's always nice to be a leader and be able to help people with their pitfalls and their programs."

Jasper County Supervisor Brandon Talsma said other states are beginning to take notice, too. He praised the sheriff for "taking the bull by the horns" to come up with a creative solution to a problem. John Halferty said he appreciated the generous comments but the work cannot be done without a team approach.

"We've had a few hurdles but I think this is an opportune time with this board and the makeup we have to take advantage of that and push forward," he said. "If somebody comes up with a better hybrid system or better solution, we're always for it. But right now we're making some progress."