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By Mayor Yemi Mobolade

On June 11, City Council voted 5-4 against a proposal that would have established a fire department-based enterprise and allowed our nationally recognized fire department to manage emergency ambulance transport. This would have improved response times, lowered costs to users, and enhanced innovative public safety programs and services. 

The proposed structure, which our fire department asked for and that was vetted by outside experts, billing consultants, local business leaders, skeptics, and more, required the support of City Council to create an enterprise that would function without using tax dollars. By embracing this logical model, Colorado Springs would have joined best-in-class cities, including 36 of the 40 largest cities in America that have moved away from unreliable private ambulance, thereby improving safety for their residents. 

Four members of City Council gave their advocacy and support to improving your safety. They, like me, recognize that it’s time for Colorado Springs to adapt to changing public safety demands, embrace innovative efforts, and, most importantly, deliver on promises to our residents.

Public safety belongs in the hands of our first responders, not in the hands of a for-profit company. The government’s central role is to provide safety, and I am committed to working with all Councilmembers to make Colorado Springs the safest city in America. We will do this proactively and transparently.

We are a fiscally conservative city. The enterprise proposal took that into account, and this service would be funded by user fees and federal pass-through dollars related to Medicaid. General fund or new tax dollars would not be used. There is also extensive local philanthropic support for the proposal. Further, the enterprise proposal used conservative financial models, which were heavily vetted and peer reviewed.

This extensive due diligence prepared the City to join the majority of other cities in our country and region that have successfully stood up fire department-based ambulance transport. Of those cities, zero have failed under the inhouse model, largely due to more efficiencies, the lack of shareholder profit margins and flexibility of financial models to adjust.

This week’s no-vote to this measure means our residents will continue to wait longer for ambulances, while costs increase by up to 40%. Over the past three years, the current private ambulance service has arrived late for 33,000 calls.

Having a fire department-run ambulance service also would mean that the 911 system would be fully contained and served by the City. City ambulances would be entirely dedicated to emergency response, thereby improving response times. The City’s current private provider splits ambulances off to non-emergent private calls, amounting to approximately 30% of calls that deplete emergency response. 

Under the enterprise model, residents would be assured that the fire department’s similar number of ambulances would be available to them, and not diverted to non-emergency calls. This has been problematic in the past, to include numerous “Level Zero” situations when the current private provider had no ambulances available to respond to 911 calls. 

Few people realize this occurred on the night of the tragic Club Q shooting. With no ambulances from our current provider available, CSPD officers, fire trucks, and ambulances from other jurisdictions were called in to transport patients. This cannot happen again. The inhouse model would assure that.

Furthermore, the enterprise model would bring in a conservative estimate of an additional $65 million in federal dollars over the next nine years. This would be invested in alternative care models like our Homeless Outreach Program and Community Response Teams that have trained behavioral health professionals who help divert homeless and mentally ill individuals from emergency rooms and instead navigates them to appropriate care. I hear constantly from residents and businesses who are negatively impacted by homelessness and behavioral health issues. We cannot ignore these very real issues by clinging to a status quo that isn’t in the best interests of residents. 

This is an important issue. It could impact your spouse, your child, your parent, or even you. Ambulance transport is a place where your government should deliver with excellence.  While financials are very important, and we have spent considerable amount of due diligence on the financials, what matters most is the fact that residents and visitors deserve nothing less than the best public safety service possible.

Please know I am committed to moving the needle despite this setback. My team and I are actively strategizing next steps.

I will continue to work tirelessly to improve our collective public safety through responsible, vetted, data-based, non-political decisions. As your mayor, public safety is my responsibility, and I am committed to providing it with excellence.  My desire is to be the No. 1 safest city in the nation to go along with our other “best city” accolades.

I appreciate the incredible outpouring of support from the community and will continue to communicate with our constituents on our progress. 

Onward and upward!

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