Keeping Us in Good Hands

Monday, August 20, 2018 11:01 AM | Lee Levengood (Administrator)
Keeping Us in Good Hands – Boyertown Lions Community Ambulance Service Inc.
By Jennifer Hetrick

One of the most important parts of the backbone of a community is the patchwork of those who work to help keep everyone safe and protected, especially in emergencies. Boyertown Lions Community Ambulance Service Inc. plays a unique role in this in our town and on the outskirts, with its history dating back to 1941.

In the blur of busy living today, it’s easy to take for granted nonprofits like this and how fully vital they are in a community until a dangerous episode is underway. Having the specific expertise of those who know how to respond in these kinds of situations is crucial but also means organizations like this need continued support, especially as costs of operating and being as well-prepared as possible are increasing.

In the past, providers with the local ambulance service in Boyertown were volunteers, but since more than a decade ago, they’re paid, and rightly so for how essential their skill-sets are.

“We cover the Borough of Boyertown, Colebrookdale Township, and a portion of Earl and Douglass Townships, in Berks County,” says Jeff Knopf, Director of EMS for the ambulance service. “We provide mutual aid to Amity Township, Gilbertsville Area Community Ambulance Service, and Bally Community Ambulance.”

“Currently, we have 9 full-time and 17 part-time EMS providers” Knopf says.

And while they’re trained thoroughly, and their personalities are built well to handle sudden incidents, they’re also often dealing with their own impacts of
trauma and memory from what they carry in them emotionally in their work—all
the more reason to respect and value what they do and to be grateful for their necessary part in keeping people in our community in the safest, most expertise-driven hands.

EMS providers working under Knopf's supervision have up to three levels of training, with the minimum amount of training being several hundred hours, between classroom and hands-on time. Paramedics are educated to an even more advanced level, with well over 1,500 hours of classroom and practical emergency medical training.

BLCAS providers clock an average 8 minutes to get to a call-out after dispatch, he explains.

“Response time of 8 minutes is very quick compared to the national standard of 12 minutes,” he says. “We’re hitting our benchmark more than 95 percent of the time.”

Expenses per call-out are sometimes adding up to as much as $2,200, Knopf notes; however, reimbursement is frequently less than half that amount.

His team averages 1,500 emergency responses per year.

In 2018 so far, the call-out count is already at more than 915, Knopf confirms.

While 60 to 70 percent of costs are handled through patients’ health insurance policies—and this wasn’t a norm decades ago—the insurers don’t necessarily cover bills 100 percent. And it can also take several months until the ambulance service receives payments.

Another 5 to 10 percent of the ambulance service’s budget is from donations and a handful of trust funds of varying sizes. The rest is made up of subscriptions which allow locals to prepare by having a much more affordable, lower cost in the event of emergency calls for service to their homes, in public, or at community events.

In the case of when insurance companies only pay a percentage of a bill based on specific benefits plans and restrictions with policies, Knopf adds, “Our residents’ subscription service allows us to write off that balance, where otherwise, they would normally be billed for that remaining portion of their bill.”

“Some people can’t afford that since it might be several hundred dollars or more,” Knopf says, pointing out that those who are aware of this incentive appreciate the option for subscriptions all the more for this reason.

Subscriptions have unlimited usage in a given year; the family fee is $105, and the fee for individuals is $85. Subscriptions for businesses as a way to better take care of employees are also available.

Shawn Barndt and Jodie Daniels are two administrators who help to take care of seniors in our community everyday and can speak from direct experience in using the ambulance service; Barndt is the executive director of Chestnut Knoll, while Daniels is its assistant executive director and certified senior advisor.

Barndt, Daniels, and their employees specialize in residential memory care, with their location just behind the retirement community known as Walnut Woods.

Barndt and her staff are well-versed in gratitude for the ambulance service.

“Fast treatment and emergency intervention are critical to getting the best outcome long-term,” she says. “As a healthcare provider in this community, we have a close working professional relationship with the ambulance service providers and leadership; we work collaboratively in training and support for each other. For example, as an expert in chronic disease management and dementia care, we offer trainings such as virtual dementia experiences to help the crews to have the best interactions and insight when called to assist someone with dementia in their home.”

Barndt notes that the ambulance service provides training for Chestnut Knoll employees, in returned support, like in how to identify the often individualized and varying symptoms of heart attacks and strokes—so that her “staff can intervene as quickly as possible when signs and symptoms are observed.”

She admits that it’s hard to imagine going without the support of the ambulance service in our community for seniors but also in a community-wide sense.

“We are in regular communication and freely share training needs and implement programs which create the best outcome for everyone in the community, as well as at Chestnut Knoll,” Barndt says.

And she points out that Boyertown Area Fire & Rescue also visits Chestnut Knoll annually to a conduct a fire drill and disaster drill in the building.

“This allows all volunteers and crews to know the design of the building, understand the care needs of the individuals who we care for here, and review roles and responsibilities in the case of an emergency,” she says. “Fire safety is critical, and this, in addition to our regularly scheduled fire system inspections and drills, maximizes our preparedness in case of a real emergency.”

“The fire company has also utilized our building for other trainings such as elevator rescues,” Barndt says. “It is really a wonderful relationship which ultimately ensures the safety of all involved.”

Boyertown Area Fire & Rescue, comprised of several local firehouses which merged in recent years, receives a majority of its funding from municipalities but also welcomes donations to support their key emergency efforts in our community.

You can help to support our local ambulance service during a benefit for this vital nonprofit on Friday, August 24, 2018 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in downtown Boyertown. This benefit is hosted by the Berks-Mont Business Association. Limited availability tickets are available for purchase online; they are $10 each and will go toward sampling 10 different wines while you shop and peruse what downtown Boyertown has to offer.

This article was made possible by the Berks-Mont Business Association and its members in promoting the positives of Boyertown in our local landscape. To become a member, visit

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