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Amid EMS changes, Jeffersonville looks to run their own service

The back of an ambulance.
Jeffersonville officials are exploring the financial possibility of starting a city-run EMS service.

Jeffersonville officials are considering a switch to city-run EMS services. They’re the latest in Southern Indiana looking to break away from New Chapel EMS, which was previously led by Jamey Noel.

Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore announced this week city leaders will study the possibility of a city-run EMS service, which would be part of potential creation of a larger fire territory. A fire territory allows communities and government entities to levy taxes to pay for coverage or expand it.

It comes as multiple Southern Indiana governmental bodies look at service beyond the Utica Township Volunteer Firefighters Association — also known as New Chapel EMS — amid the fallout of the criminal investigation of former CEO Jamey Noel.

Noel is facing 31 felonies related to his time running New Chapel and as sheriff of Clark County. He’s currently being held in Scott County on a nearly $1.5 million bond.

According to a news release, Jeffersonville’s exploration comes as residents express concern about adequate ambulance and EMS service to the county.

“It’s time that we take a hard look at whether Jeffersonville should provide ambulance and EMS service for its residents,” Moore said in the release. “...We want to look at all viable options to ensure that our residents are safe.”

Options to expand emergency services 

Earlier this month, the Jeffersonville Board of Public Works asked financial advisory firm Baker Tilly to look at the possibility of creating a fire territory encompassing Jeffersonville, Utica and Utica Township. This week, officials asked the firm to look at EMS services, too.

The study area includes Jeffersonville’s portion of the growing River Ridge Commerce Center, which announced this year Meta Platforms Inc. would locate a facility there. If the territory comes to fruition, the plan is for the Jeffersonville Fire Department to operate both fire and EMS services.

Moore believes a “significant chunk” of the money needed to expand services could come from new tax on businesses at River Ridge. Full details on expanded funding will come after Baker Tilly’s findings.

Jeffersonville City Council President Dustin White, who first brought the idea for the fire territory, said he believes this would not mean additional taxes for residential property owners, as they’re already capped at 1%.

If they go that route, officials will have to hold public hearings before adopting the territory.

Clark County, as a whole, is under a contract with New Chapel through the end of 2025. Moore said he has concerns about the future of the company, which has lost business with other Southern Indiana entities in recent months.

“I think what has transpired in the courts over the last eight months [has] led to some very, very big shortcomings for New Chapel ambulance, and I feel bad for the employees of that company,” he said, speaking of Noel’s investigation “But again, my job is taking care of the people of Jeffersonville.”

Changing landscape of EMS in Southern Indiana 

A year ago, New Chapel was contracted for service across Clark County and most of Floyd County, outside New Albany.

Last year, Floyd County officials started looking at updating service based on the county’s changing needs, ahead of the New Chapel contract’s expiration this May.

They recently selected AmeriPro Health and the Highlander Fire Protection District to cover Floyd County for the next two and a half years. Officials rejected New Chapel’s bid, in part, because it had incomplete financial information. A lot of the company’s property including some records have been tied up in the state police investigation of Noel.

The New Albany Township Fire Protection District board voted last month to cancel New Chapel’s contract and start its own fire department.

Clarksville has also taken steps over the past year to bring EMS services in-house.

Clark County’s contract with New Chapel expires at the end of 2025.

On May 31, within the span of about six hours, 10 New Chapel staff gave their immediate resignation. S. Coy Travis, a New Chapel spokesperson and one of two attorneys representing the organization, said the staff members had been part of the New Albany Township Fire Protection District under New Chapel. When the district started its own department recently, they stayed.

Some staff who resigned at New Chapel were scheduled to work in Clark County that weekend, leaving them short-staffed.

“Any company that loses that many employees on that short notice, especially when it's employees that they expected to have immediately available to deploy elsewhere, it's going to be a surprise. It's going to be something that they have to make some on the fly adjustments,” he said. “But we adapted as quickly as possible and got through that quickly.”

Travis said they got in touch with other agencies with whom they have mutual aid agreements to make sure help was available. They also reached out to Clark County officials to help bridge the gap during their sudden staff shortage.

Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel said he was aware of concerns from community members.

“I guess that there were some concerns that if you called 911, that the system was actually collapsing,” he said. “And that wasn't true. We were able to fill those gaps.”

In a statement June 5, Yazel said the county has multiple initiatives in place to help maintain service in the short term “and protect the citizens of our county if the issues should worsen.”

Officials have also formalized the Clark County EMS board, to help with short-term management and long-term planning for EMS services.

He said in the June 5 letter there had been “no interruption in operations” and that officials will continue to monitor the situation “to ensure that remains the case.”

Officials will also be amending the county’s public safety plan, which will provide more flexibility for multiple agencies to operate within the county.

What’s next? 

Travis, one of the lawyers representing New Chapel, said the organization is on strong financial ground and continues to invest in strengthening services.

He said Noel’s actions have hurt their pocketbook and public image.

“It’s affected that, and we know we will get through it, we know we have great employees who are going to continue to come in every single day [and] do great work for the community,” he said. “And we know that we will do what is necessary to re earn the public trust and show the world that we are not Jamey Noel. We are not what he did.”

Clark County’s contract with New Chapel expires at the end of 2025. Travis said he’s optimistic they’ll continue to have a relationship with the county moving forward, though it could look different.

“We want to show everybody that we are better, that we are going to be different than what happened under his leadership,” he said. “But we know that we have to show our work on that.”

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec Inc., the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation, and the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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