An Open Letter to the Kentucky General Assembly about EMS Death Benefits

The ambulance carrying paramedic Andy Sharp on his last ride as it passes under a United States flag held in place by ladder units from the Philadelphia (Mississippi) and Choctaw Fire Departments. Credit: Brandi Smith-Wyatt

This letter is also being emailed to my state Senator and Representative. If you would like to use this letter as a template for your own, please feel free to modify it however you wish. I encourage you to contact your elected officials and encourage them to support line duty death benefits for EMS providers both in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and elsewhere. – Jonathan

To the Representatives and Senators of the General Assembly of Kentucky: Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

My name is Jonathan Tullos and I am the pastor of Shiloh United Methodist Church in Stanton. I am also a licensed paramedic in the Commonwealth and work part time at Powell County EMS as a paramedic and chaplain. When I attended paramedic school one of the things I was taught was to be an advocate for every patient I care for. Part of my call to pastoral ministry involves EMS chaplaincy – to be an advocate for the advocates. It is in that capacity that I contact you.

I, like many other EMS providers in the Commonwealth, am very disappointed to hear that the Senate defeated House Bill 54. As you are aware, line of duty death benefits are not currently offered to Kentucky’s EMS providers. According to the National EMS Memorial, there have been 27 reported line of duty deaths in Kentucky since they began collecting data. The recent line of duty death of paramedic John Mackey of Jessemine County EMS will be number 28. This means that at least 28 families in the Commonwealth have had to struggle with end of life expenses and income instability because they are not currently entitled to the same benefits that families of law enforcement officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty receive. Simply, this is an injustice that needs to be corrected.

There are many who view EMS as a vocation that is not as dangerous as law enforcement and firefighting. According to data available from the federal government, this is simply not true. EMS has death rates that are comparable to those of firefighters and police officers. Among the leading causes of death for EMS providers are heart attacks, vehicle accidents and violence. The notion that EMS is not a dangerous profession is a myth.

Daily, EMS providers in Kentucky and elsewhere face harsh working conditions, sleep deprivation, violence, and exposure to infectious disease among many other hazards. EMS providers often have to work more than one job due to low wages and inadequate benefits for themselves and their families. They do all of this in order to help others in need – possibly even yourself someday. Their families should not have to be saddled with the burden of financial difficulty due to their loved one dying in service to their community.

I encourage you to support Kentucky’s EMS providers by ensuring that their families will be taken care of if they are killed in the line of duty. Please do all you can to enact line of duty death benefits for Kentucky’s EMS providers.

Thank your time and your service to the citizens of the Commonwealth. May God bless you and may God bless Kentucky.

Rev. Jonathan K. Tullos, Nationally Registered Paramedic (NRP)
Chaplain, Powell County EMS Stanton, KY

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