Intoxicated minors may pay more

EMILY BOUDREAU, staff reporter

The legality of underage drinking hasn’t changed, but an additional $250  fee may be enacted for  minors who are under the influence but refuse to be taken to a hospital after calling for an ambulance.

If enacted, the fee would replace the ambulance service costs, if an alternative is not agreed upon.

According to Deputy Fire Chief Rich Elliott, the fee is meant to pay for any unnecessary ambulance trips to an underage person’s residence.

“We are seeing about 160 alcohol overdoses a year,” Elliott said. “Of those, about 40 percent, on average, are resulting in transport.”

This is a problem for the ambulance service because, under current laws, they only get paid if someone is transported.

The $250 fee is only enough to cover the ambulance trip and would only be applied to underage persons who are breaking the law.

Elliott acknowledged that, despite the simplistic nature regarding the implementation of the fee, there are downsides that cannot be overlooked.

“I feel like people wouldn’t call 911 because they wouldn’t want to pay the fee,” said Margaret Nash, sophmore elementary education major.

Some feel the fee could be beneficial.

“The EMT is providing a service, and someone should pay for that,” said Haleigh Downing, junior English major.

It was decided at the last city council meeting that alternatives should be looked into.

One alternative that has been suggested is working with Central Housing and Central police to change some of the policies for calling 911.

Currently, the policy for calling 911 in the dorms is broad and includes calls that might not be necessary.

“I understand why the policy is there, but it is sort of an overuse of the system,” Elliot said.

The Ellensburg Fire Department has limited resources and personnel, so the calls that aren’t necessary take money away from services that could use extra funds.

Creating more specific guidelines for calling the police has the potential to limit the overuse of the ambulance service.

The overall goal is not to target underage drinking. The concern is mainly with funds that are being wasted, Elliott said.