GREAT FALLS — Last week, Cascade County Commissioners voted unanimously to renew the ambulance contract with Great Falls Emergency Services (GFES) for another four years during their meeting.
“We are very excited to renew this contract to provide ambulance response to Cascade County,” said GFES General Manager Justin Grohs. “We are excited to have the opportunity to renew the contract with the county fairly long term, which we find brings a lot of stability to the system.
GFES also contracts with the City of Great Falls, as well as an MOU (memorandum of understanding) to provide ambulance response to Malmstrom Air Force Base.
Cascade County Commissioner Jim Larson said they have developed a great and long-term relationship with GFES over the years, and they hope to continue that into the future.
“It’s been a great service for the county,” he said. “There’s only one ambulance service and that’s in Belt. That’s outside of the city limits of Great Falls. Great Falls Emergency Services does go outside of Great Falls, so Belt is handling things on the east end of town. Nothing is going on west if Great Falls Emergency Services doesn’t give us that help.”
GFES will also continue to serve the rural communities of Cascade County through 2031. The emergency rescue service provides Advanced Life Support and Basic Life Support ambulance response as well as Community Integrated Health services to city and county residents.
Grohs noted that while transportation times are relatively short in the city of Great Falls, it can take up to 45 minutes to arrive on scene if it’s outside city limits, due to Cascade County’s large geographical area.
“Those longer transport times in rural settings can present extra challenges to the paramedics and EMTs,” Grohs said.
2022 was more active than usual in terms of ambulance transports; Great Falls Emergency Services saw a record high of more than 10,000 ambulance transports in Cascade County.
Despite some of challenges, Grohs credited fellow first responders, especially rural volunteer departments.
“The volunteers here in Cascade County are actually crucial, and there’s a number of them,” Grohs said. “There’s rural fire departments, which are positioned in most of the major communities in the county. A lot of communities also have Quick Response Units (QRU), that also respond to these medical emergencies, whether they’re in Cascade, Monarch, or wherever they may be. Of course, they live there so they can get there fairly quickly, which is essential. They can get there within a few minutes. They generally will give us a report on the patient’s condition, as we’re en route to the call, and they can start a lot of the initial care before a paramedic ambulance can arrive there.”
Grohs also noted that they hope to continue this partnership with the county and rural communities long-term.
Grohs said, “GFES has been in the community for a very long time. We’ve certainly been through some challenges with Covid and other speed bumps in the road, but we’re very honored to serve the residents of the community, and we certainly are not planning on going anywhere. We plan on continuing to cover the county and other obligations as long as we can.”