If you are a Guilford County department head who needs something, now is the time to ask for it since the Guilford County Board of Commissioners will soon adopt a budget for the coming 2019-2020 fiscal year that begins on July 1.

And Guilford County Emergency Services Director Jim Albright said this week that Emergency Services is badly understaffed and needs more manpower in a bad way.

Albright, who made his case at a budget work session of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners this week, said a number of factors, such as the opioid crisis, a growing county population and an increase in violence over the years has led to a need for more paramedics and other staff.  According to Albright, a study conducted by the Emergency Services Department in 2011 indicated that the county should have added 96 additional positions to the department by now.

“We have been fortunate, during very tough economic times, to expand by 26 – but, unfortunately, the deficit remains at 70,” he said.  “That creates an issue of service provision.”

Albright said one of the factors leading to a need for more emergency responders is “an alarming trend in the way people use 911.”  He said that, over the past decade and a half, the use of Emergency Services has gone from 8 percent per capita to 14 percent.   It’s not just drugs and violence, he said, it’s also the fact that Emergency Services is a last resort for those who need medical care.

“We are the safety net for people who are medically fragile,” Albright told the commissioners at the work session.

He said the workload on his employees has increased a great deal over the past decade and he added that that’s created issues with recruitment, retention and employee stress levels.  That means, he said, that a lot of workers who in the past have chosen “pre-hospital” work are now choosing to work in hospitals instead.

The Emergency Services Department is getting over 75,000 calls a year and transporting more than 50,000 people every year.  Last month, there were 6,800 calls.

“This is a big business,” Albright said, “and it requires some capital infusion every so often and the biggest need I have right now is human capital.”

He asked for 38 new positions, including an IT worker, paramedics and supervisors.

He said there would be some revenue generated by many of the new positions and that would help cover the costs.

The Board of Commissioners is expected to adopt a new county budget in mid-June and the board is currently discussing how many new positions, if any, Emergency Services will get.