Proposals sought for Youngstown ambulance service
YOUNGSTOWN — With American Medical Response, Youngstown’s ambulance service, wanting to negotiate a new contract with a subsidy, the city is seeking proposals from companies for that job.
But city officials didn’t sound confident Thursday that the requests for proposals would attract any additional interest besides AMR.
The city has given companies until Oct. 11 to turn in proposals. An AMR official said his company would submit one.
“We’re waiting to see if there are any other entities that are interested in putting together a proposal,” Law Director Jeff Limbian told city council’s safety committee Thursday. “When that period is concluded, we’ll look at all those proposals or if there are no other proposals (besides AMR), we’ll reassess and reengage if that’s a possibility with AMR.”
City officials have said in the past that they didn’t expect other companies to submit proposals for the work currently done by AMR.
“We’ll see if any others want our business,” Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said Thursday. “If not, we would ask the law department to negotiate some of those issues with (AMR) to come up with the terms of a deal.”
AMR gave notice on Sept. 14 that it wouldn’t renew its contract, which expires Dec. 31, with the city without a financial subsidy. AMR officials have told The Vindicator that without an annual subsidy of at least $750,000, the company could be forced to close its Youngstown operations.
AMR’s existing contract doesn’t include a subsidy, and an effort to add one, with the money coming from Youngstown’s American Rescue Plan allocation,was rejected in April by city council.
AMR officials say a subsidy is needed because an average ambulance run costs about $300 and Medicaid reimburses about $130, so AMR is losing money as 54 percent of its calls in the city are for Medicaid recipients.
AMR gave the notice because the current contract would automatically roll over for another year if it didn’t inform the city at least 90 days before the end of the year that it wants a new deal.
“AMR wants to negotiate,” Brown said. “This is their official way of doing so.”
Brown, who supports the subsidy, said he understands why city officials don’t want to give financial support to a private organization.
“But we don’t have any other options,” he said.
Reached after the meeting, Edward Powers, AMR’s northeast regional director of operations, said the company will submit a proposal that will include subsidies.
“We’re not happy about the subsidy either,” he said. “We wish we could survive on insurance payments, but that’s not the world we live in. We very much want to continue serving the city. We’ve done so for a long time.”
Finance Director Kyle Miasek said the city could use a portion of its ARP allocation to pay the AMR subsidy through 2026.
“Eventually, those dollars would dry up and have to be paid by the general fund,” he said. “There are short-term solutions, but long-term it will put a strain on our resources.”
Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th Ward, said: “It’s not ideal, but it gives us time to find a long-term solution.”
Councilman Jimmy Hughes, D-2nd Ward, who described AMR’s nonrenewal letter as a “nastygram,” said AMR has been “satisfied with the terms of the contract” and didn’t ask for a subsidy until the city received ARP funds.
But Powers said AMR has repeatedly asked since 2019 for a subsidy from the city without success.
Fire Chief Barry Finley said fire services are heading toward regionalization and when that occurs an emergency medical services program can be started.
“But in the current situation we’re in, it’s not sustainable,” he said.