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Seconds Save Lives - Campaign Launches for a New Station for Gunnison Valley Health Paramedics

Gunnison Valley Health Paramedics are in serious need of a new station. Over the past two decades, the crew has grown from a mostly volunteer group of college students to a 24/7 professional staff of highly skilled emergency responders. The 23-year-old existing station is a steel prefab modular shell originally built for housing fewer and smaller ambulances, far less equipment, a small fraction of the current staff, and there are no sleeping quarters for on-call personnel.

A new station with sleeping quarters where all ambulances and apparatus can be properly garaged and stored will greatly and positively impact patient response time – saving lives. A realistic estimate is that the new station will reduce 911 response time by about four minutes, and new research links this quicker response to a projected 107% improvement in cardiac arrest survival rates in Gunnison County.

A larger, updated station in a better location on the Gunnison Valley Health campus will also improve patient safety, satisfaction rates and outcomes; expand services, including first aid and Emergency Medical Training (EMT) classes for the community; support the safety and health of the emergency responders; and help our rural community recruit and retain health professionals.

Most people don’t think of paramedics until they need to call 911. While hoping to never need to serve you, rest assured that a new station will help GVH Paramedics provide you, your family and our community with the best critical care medicine and rescue services available.

Gunnison Valley Health Paramedics service area is 4,400 square miles – the largest response zone in Colorado. The district is massive, remote and encompasses Gunnison, Almont, Ohio Creek Valley, Roaring Judy Valley, Taylor River Canyon, Taylor Park, Tin Cup, Pitkin, Ohio City, Sargents, Blue Mesa, Powderhorn and Currecanti communities, Arrowhead, the Fossil Ridge, Collegiate Peaks and West Elk Wilderness Areas, Monarch Pass, Cottonwood Pass and roadways deep into Saguache and Hinsdale Counties. Most residents and visitors likely spend a generous portion of their time traveling and recreating within the GVH Paramedics response zone.

911 call volume has more than doubled from about 600 annual calls twenty years ago to about 1500 calls last year. This expansion is caused by increased population and tourism in the region, as well as expanded service lines including critical care level interfacility transports (IFTs) to hospitals in Montrose, Grand Junction and Denver.

“As first responders we are passionate about saving lives and helping our community. Morale remains relatively high, but the burden of increased call volume combined with our current inadequate facility to respond, rest and rehab weighs heavily on our crew,” explained CJ Malcolm, Chief, Gunnison Valley Health Paramedics.

Despite the challenges, GVH Paramedics deliver some of the best service in the state within the critical care scope of practice. Of the more than 200 Emergency Medical Service (EMS) agencies in Colorado, GVH Paramedics were honored with the EMS Ambulance Service of the Year Award in 2020, an enormous achievement during a pandemic year.

The new station requires funding from a capital campaign because GVH Paramedics are not tax-funded, like fire and police departments. They are funded by Gunnison Valley Health and insurance reimbursements. As health care costs continue to rise, while reimbursement dollars shrink, health care providers must raise the money needed to operate and be able to serve the community over the long term.

The capital campaign goal is $8.5 million. The goal is intended to cover architect fees, contractor fees and building construction costs, as well as furniture, fixtures and equipment for the new station. As community members are the ones most likely to benefit from the improved services made possible by a new station, the focus of the campaign is to partner with Gunnison Valley full and part-time residents. Gunnison Valley Health Foundation will also pursue funding from local government, private foundations and businesses.

“While there are many valuable charitable causes in our region, this campaign meets one of the most fundamental needs in any community: quick, reliable and exemplary emergency medical services, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” stated Jenny Birnie, Director, Gunnison Valley Health Foundation.

The Gunnison Valley Health Foundation is an IRS designated nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, and donations are tax deductible. In addition, individuals who pay Colorado State Income Tax are eligible for an Enterprise Zone tax credit on their Colorado return. Donations of $100 or more earn a 25% tax credit.

There are multiple spaces in the new station available for naming rights and individuals and businesses will be publicly recognized on a donor thank you wall.

To donate and for more information on the campaign contact Jenny Birnie, Director, Gunnison Valley Health Foundation at jbirnie@gvh-colorado.org or 970.642.8400, or click here to donate