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TRAA executive director talks potential funding from city

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Mayor Tom Henry’s office announced last week that his administration will introduce a funding plan to Fort Wayne city council that will assist the Three Rivers Ambulance Authority(TRAA).

The plan, which will be presented for a potential introduction at Tuesday’s meeting, is to provide $3 million over a period of time.

“We’re very encouraged that they’re willing to continue to support EMS,” Joel Benz said.

Benz is the Executive Director for TRAA.

He told WANE 15 on Monday that talks with the city about potential funding have been taking place for quite some time.

According to Benz, the city has been supportive of changes they’ve made to improve their service — which included raising wages for employees — and knew TRAA would eventually face a deficit and come asking for money.

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Benz said that, as the city’s request, they burned through a portion of their reserves before making that ask.

Now that it’s here, he’s confident the funding plan will get approved by city council.

“I’m very confident,” Benz said. ”Everyone that we’ve talked to has been very supportive. They understand the importance of EMS in Fort Wayne. They understand the importance of getting this through so that there’s not a gap in providing service. So, they’ve, across the board, been very, very supportive.”

He added that he does hope to work out some sort of assistance from county government, but nothing is imminent.

Benz said all the money they get would go toward wages.

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Because the state made changes to the Medicaid reimbursement rates, a big portion of TRAA’s profits, they know a revenue increase is coming. According to Benz, the funding from the city bridges the gap created by the increased wages until they start to see increased revenue kick in from the Medicaid reimbursements start to show up.

Benz said they can get to being solvent once that happens.

In the meantime, Benz said TRAA continues to make statistical improvements with its service.

He said that county EMS was called into Fort Wayne more than 300 times in January of 2022. A year later in 2023, Benz said a county ambulance was only called in around 20 times.

In February, it only happened roughly 10 times, according to Benz.

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The work isn’t done. Benz said they’re closing in on 90% compliance and being fully staffed, but they’re not there yet.

TRAA will continue to work to provide better wages and benefits and offer programs that allow you to “earn while you learn,” to get people hired and out on the streets as soon as possible.

As reported by WANE 15