The following story is courtesy of the Lower Colorado River Authority.
An ambitious plan to use helicopters to provide faster medical transports in Blanco County and other parts of the Hill Country is one step closer to reality, thanks partly to help from a $50,000 grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority and Pedernales Electric Cooperative.
Blanco County’s new remote base for STAR Flight air medical services and a satellite location for North Blanco County Emergency Medical Services will greatly expand emergency care for Blanco and surrounding counties. The Community Development Partnership Program grant to Blanco County will provide funding for crew members’ quarters, a key piece of the overall project being built with an additional $2.35 million in matching funds.
Having an air medical services location in Blanco County will decrease the time it takes first responders to arrive and the travel time for a patient to reach an appropriate medical facility, said Michael Megna, deputy emergency management coordinator for Blanco County. Additionally, the aircraft can assist in search and rescue missions and hoist operations for evacuations, as well as fire reconnaissance and suppression.
“The big thing for us is the reduction in flight times so that advanced medical services can be delivered to the patient as quickly as possible,” Megna said. “The ambulance can get to patients in 15 minutes or less, but transport time after the patient is stabilized can be up to an hour. Having a helicopter available in 5-12 minutes means advanced treatment can start immediately during a crucial period.”
Blanco County is one of 71 counties in Texas with no hospital facility, so having a medical helicopter available will make a huge difference in the care of critically ill or injured patients, Megna said.
LCRA General Manager Phil Wilson said the new air transport system will support the entire region and will make the area even more attractive to new residents and businesses.
“We’re witnessing enormous growth in Central Texas and the Hill Country, and it doesn’t look like that will slow down any time soon,” Wilson said. “Making medical care more accessible will no doubt save lives.”
Wilson said LCRA is proud to contribute to a project that will have such a long-lasting impact.
“LCRA works daily to improve the quality of life of the Texans we serve, and we are pleased to join other supporters of this project to expand the availability of medical care in such a significant way,” he said.
The crew quarters at the facility will be for both air medical and EMS personnel, and will include six sleeping rooms, two shower facilities and two restrooms.
“We’re planning so we can have 24-hour coverage in the future,” Megna said. “Having a space for six people to get off their feet after assisting in these events makes a big difference.”
Megna said the importance of bringing the project to reality is illustrated by the dedication of and teamwork among the Blanco and Travis county governments, Travis County STAR Flight and North Blanco County EMS. The facility is expected to be up and running by the end of 2023.
The community grant is one of 46 grants awarded recently through LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program, which helps volunteer fire departments, local governments, emergency responders and nonprofit organizations fund capital improvement projects in LCRA’s wholesale electric, water and transmission service areas. The program is part of LCRA’s effort to give back to the communities it serves. PEC is one of LCRA’s wholesale electric customers and is a partner in the grant program.
Applications for the next round of grants will be accepted in January. More information is available at lcra.org/cdpp.