MONMOUTH COUNTY, New Jersey (WABC) -- A major shortage of volunteer EMTs in Monmouth County is becoming a growing concern for residents and officials.
As the county ranks low with one of the worse response times to an emergency in the state, local officials on Wednesday announced a new initiative aimed at addressing the lag.
The sheriff and county leaders are making a major investment to supplement volunteer departments and improve EMS services.
"Our goal is to assist volunteers and paid professionals, reduce response times and provide the best patient care that we can," said Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden.
Last year, Monmouth County had 100,000 calls for help and answered those with fewer EMS workers.
"Pre-COVID, there were probably 22,000 EMTs in the state of New Jersey," said Mike Bascom, EMS Coordinator of Monmouth County. "Post-COVID, that number is like 19,000. So, you're losing EMTs while calls are skyrocketing."
This problem is national.
The New York State Department of Health shows that the number of active and certified EMS personnel continues to decline.
In Monmouth County, they're making an initial investment of $5 million, putting more equipment and volunteers in municipalities that need assistance.
They say this is taxpayer money well spent.
"I'll stand there in front of our constituents and know that a day comes when a call has to be answered at their house, I'll know that we did everything possible financially to assist," said Thomas Arnone, Director of County Commissioners.
The job of being an emergency services technician has become more challenging with extensive training, continued education and demands on family life.
"Having to go on call to work on holidays, having to be away from your families, but it's rewarding at the same time," said Jane Ciani, who is an EMT.
Monmouth County officials say they're going to create a program to encourage high school students to become future EMTs, that way it could become a legacy program.