State Representative Antonio Celebrates National Emergency Medical Services Week
This week marks the 44th Annual National Emergency Medical Service Week, a week dedicated to honoring the brave citizens who devote themselves to providing life-saving care to Americans. Putting themselves in harm’s way, EMS providers respond to everything from active shooter situations to drownings, from behavioral health crises to vehicle collisions. Truly, emergency medical technicians and paramedics are public servants in every sense, ensuring we all have access to critically important care when we need it.
Serving as a First Responder is not for the faint of heart. Continuous training, increasing call volumes and exhausting shifts only scratch the surface. Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel must respond to many of the same emergencies firefighters and law officers address, including active shooter situations, drownings, behavioral health crises, vehicle collisions, and domestic violence crimes, just to name a few. Furthermore, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the fatality rate for EMS workers is almost double that of other emergency occupations. It is abundantly clear paramedics and emergency medical technicians face the same occupational hazards and dangers as other first responders.
Despite emergency care being such a source of strength in our communities, Ohio law has yet to accommodate EMTs and Paramedics in the same way these statutes provide for other first responders. Currently, the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) recognizes many first responders, including firefighters and law enforcement officials, as public safety officers. This provision allows this subset of first responders to retire after 25 years of service. Unfortunately, this is not the case for emergency medical personnel, who must work 32 years in order to retire with the same benefits as their first responder colleagues in alternate fields.
Upon this discovery, I have resolved to legislate a solution. I introduced House Bill (HB) 486, a bill designed to change how OPERS regards EMS personnel by declaring paramedics and emergency medical technicians Public Safety Officers; this will afford EMS personnel the opportunity to retire after 25 years of service.
EMS workers certainly fit the spirit of the OPERS statute that allow earlier retirement for public safety officers because of the dangers of their jobs. They put their lives on the line every single day, and they should be eligible for the fair and equitable retirement that they truly deserve. As the work on HB 486 continues, I am hopeful this legislation will gain further traction among my colleagues in the future allowing for further hearings.
In observance of National Emergency Medical Service Week, I encourage all of us to take time out of our day to thank our community’s EMS workers for all of the work they do to keep our district safe and healthy. I am certainly thankful for them and know how critical their job is. Without their service, I firmly believe we would not have the thriving community we do today.
State Representative Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) is honored to be serving her fourth term in the Ohio House of Representatives, which began in January of 2011. House District 13 includes the city of Lakewood in its entirety and parts of Cleveland’s West Side neighborhoods.
Representative Antonio is a civic-minded public servant who is concerned with the quality of life of those around her. She has been an advocate for workers' rights, quality education, supporting local government, equal rights for women and the LGBT community, healthcare for all and fighting the opioid crisis.
Antonio is an alumna of the Harvard Kennedy School Senior and Executive Leadership program for State and Local governments. The first in her family to graduate from college, Antonio holds a Master of Public Administration Degree from the Maxine Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University as well as a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from CSU. She is a graduate of Lutheran West High School located in Rocky River, Ohio.
Antonio currently serves on the currently serves as Ranking Member of the Health Committee. She also serves on the Finance Committee, Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education, the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee and the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee. Rep. Antonio is a member of the Ohio House Democratic Women's Caucus—previously serving as chair—and is the state director for the Women Legislators’ Lobby. Rep. Antonio was also a member of the Democratic Leadership and served as the Minority Whip.
Daughters Ariel and Stacey, both Lakewood High School graduates, have made Rep. Antonio and wife Jean Kosmac very proud as the girls engage in their post-secondary pursuits.