To the editor: The final round of vetoes by the governor also included one that gets little mention in the main news articles but has a huge impact on rural emergency medical services. He vetoed the funding for the Code Blue Project, or CB, which has been a rock-solid grant program for 19 straight years and strongly supported by both the House and Senate. Very few communities in the state haven’t benefited from CB during that time.
The CB Project began in the late 1990s as aging or nonexistent equipment and transportation needs became acute. The $500,000 allocated by the state was used as seed money for other grants, loans and local matches to purchase essential EMS equipment across the state. The eligibility determination and award process are one of the most stringent in the state in order to guarantee that grant awards are given based on need, not on want, regardless of the legislative district.
During its 19 years of existence, the state contributed $7,757,000; the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $8,830,000; the Denali Commission, $1,561,000; and the Rasmuson Foundation, $1,226,000, all of which was combined with local community matches of $4,873,000 for a total of $27,795,321 of EMS patient care, training, transportation and communication equipment. The state funds accounted for roughly 25% of the total dollars contributed to the project.
With the vetoing of the seed money, CB will come to a halt. And with the cost of an ambulance delivered to the bush being nearly $180,000 and the cardiac monitor/defibrillators costing $35,000, it’s devastating to EMS services in rural communities, many without a tax base.
Four 1990s model ambulances across the state were approved for replacement in 2020 with a plan to use state CB dollars for each of $55,000 as match money to seek other funding partners for the unmet need. Now that option no longer exists.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy said “budget changes are not meant to harm Alaska or Alaskans” in his video, but in this case, it not only harms Alaska residents but also the millions of visitors to the state who expect and depend on EMS in their communities.