Washington County has unveiled a partnership which will provide emergency medical transport by helicopter at no cost to county residents.
Commissioners at their meeting this (Monday) morning emphatically approved a contract between Washington County EMS and REACH Air Medical Services for a multi-mission public safety rescue helicopter program.
The program will not only provide air medical transport, but will also allow firefighting capabilities for rural grass fires. The helicopter will also be fitted for search and rescue operations, including hoist rescue operations for water rescue.
EMS Director Kevin Deramus gave the details of the partnership to commissioners, saying the county has been approached three times since 2006 by different private for-profit air medical programs looking to build a program in Brenham. He said there is only one program like this in the state, and one of just a few in the nation. Through this public/private partnership, he said Washington County will be able to provide much faster transport to definitive care, at no cost to citizens in the county.
Deramus said the total subscription cost is still being negotiated, but the cost should come out to around $3 per resident annually. The county will use money from its general fund to pick up the cost.
Through the contract, REACH will provide the multi-mission helicopter and complete flight service support, including aircraft operating costs, pilots, mechanics, and a hangar and crew quarters. The helicopter will be stationed at the Brenham Municipal Airport, and the county will work with the City of Brenham on refurbishing an existing hangar to use for the program.
Washington County EMS will manage and oversee the program, which calls for the hiring of about ten to 12 employees, such as crew chiefs, flight nurses and paramedics. REACH will reimburse the county for all salaries, program direction, administrative oversight, and crew quarters.
The program is expected to begin around March or April of the new year, following a training period for new employees and the completion of necessary infrastructure at the airport.
Deramus said a program like this would have been impossible without REACH’s help and cooperation.
Commissioners had nothing but praise for the program. Commissioner Joy Fuchs called it an “amazing benefit for county residents”, while Commissioner Candace Bullock said it will be a “fantastic program for the community”.
Commissioner Don Koester said he is “very thankful” for this program, which he said will make Washington County EMS “the best EMS in Texas”. Commissioner Kirk Hanath commended Deramus’ ability to “think outside of the box” and not conform to industry standards. He said this program is “historic” for the community, and is something worthy of recognition. He also thanked REACH for their efforts in creating the partnership, calling them “a lifesaver”.
Several City of Brenham officials were in attendance to mark the occasion, including Mayor Milton Tate, City Manager James Fisher, and Councilman Clint Kolby. Tate said this is an exciting program that “everyone will benefit from”.
Following a unanimous vote from commissioners, the courthouse chambers erupted in applause. County Judge John Durrenberger said this is a “very significant day in Washington County”.
Also at today’s meeting, commissioners:
- Tabled action on an amendment to the original proposal for the Washington County Courthouse Historic Master Plan.
- Approved a resolution authorizing the Washington County Environmental Health Department to submit a grant application to the Brazos Valley Council of Governments’ Regional Solid Waste Management Grants Program, for funding to conduct a local tire cleanup event for all county residents.
- Approved a resolution casting votes for the candidates for membership for the Washington County Appraisal District Board of Directors.
- Heard a series of monthly reports.