An agreement has been reached for the city of Farmington Hills to provide advanced life support services to residents of Farmington. Pictured are Farmington Hills Fire Department firefighters James Chesney and Ryan Wood.

An agreement has been reached for the city of Farmington Hills to provide advanced life support services to residents of Farmington. Pictured are Farmington Hills Fire Department firefighters James Chesney and Ryan Wood.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Farmington enters into agreement with Hills for advanced life support services

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published April 1, 2024


FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — In recent weeks, Farmington residents may have noticed that there is a new ambulance service provider in the city.

In past years, emergency medical services in the city were provided by Community EMS and Superior Ambulance Service.

However, according to a press release from the city of Farmington, last December, Superior informed the city that they would no longer provide advanced life support services without subsidy, effective March 15 of this year.

That notification prompted Farmington Public Safety Director Bob Houhanisin to seek out EMS proposals from other providers.

That search eventually led Farmington to entering into an agreement with the Farmington Hills Fire Department for advanced life support services.

The cost for Farmington is $275,000 annually.

The agreement was unanimously approved at a Farmington City Council special meeting March 11.

According to a press release, “Farmington City Council is now working with administration to determine the best way to fund this new expense.”

The previous agreement in place was for Superior to provide EMS services without a charge to the city, with insurance companies or residents themselves footing the bill.

According to Houhanisin, it was a subsidy-free agreement.

“The ambulance companies are allowed to bill residents for services provided. That’s usually covered by insurance,” Houhanisin said. “Farmington doesn’t have as many calls for a private ambulance, so to be able to be cost-effective, the private ambulances asked us to pay a subsidy to help cover their costs for providing services to Farmington.”

Houhanisin discussed what Superior wanted to begin charging Farmington for services.

“Off the top of my head, it was a dedicated ambulance in the city of Farmington, with three paramedics and three EMT’s, for roughly $740,000 a year,” he said.

According to the release, Farmington Hills has five stations that surround Farmington that will absorb the Farmington runs, with a five-minute average response time.

The agreement with Farmington Hills went into effect March 15.

Houhanisin said that Farmington Hills will submit bills to residents’ insurance providers.

Farmington Hills Fire Chief Jon Unruh provided more details.

“Our fees are below the insurance level rate, so theoretically, our EMS transport fees should be covered by all insurance companies, including Medicare,” Unruh said.

Last year, a Farmington resident reported that she received a bill for $3,077 for a less than 3-mile ambulance ride from Superior.

She learned that her insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, was no longer affiliated with Superior, which was the reason for the large bill.

However, according to Houhanisin, that situation is not what led to Farmington electing to go with Farmington Hills for ALS services.

“Superior had worked out their relationship with Blue Cross Blue Shield, so no, this didn’t play a part in it,” he said.

Farmington City Manager David Murphy weighed in on the agreement.

“This investment demonstrates the council’s unwavering commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of Farmington’s residents,” Murphy stated in the release. “We are committed to prioritizing the health and safety of our community members.”

According to Houhanisin, there is already a mutual aid agreement in place between the two cities for police and fire services, with the latest agreement only calling for Farmington Hills to provide EMS services.

He said that all of Farmington’s public safety officers are cross-trained in police and firefighting services.

“(The) Farmington Public Safety Department provides police, fire and first-responder EMS services to the residents,” Houhanisin said. “We’ve never provided advanced life support, which is the highest level of paramedic and transport, so we contracted with Farmington Hills just to provide those services, where we’re still retaining our fire protection and our police, and we’re still going to respond on all medicals, as we did with the private EMS companies. … Any call for EMS within the city of Farmington, you’ll get two public safety officers and (the) Farmington Hills Fire Department responding.”

Houhanisin said that Farmington previously used Community EMS for ambulance services, prior to Community being purchased by Superior about two or three years ago.

He expanded on what helped Farmington decide to partner with Farmington Hills for ALS services.

“It was response times, and Farmington Hills surrounds Farmington, obviously, so having multiple ambulances very close to the city of Farmington helped City Council make that decision to go with Farmington Hills,” Houhanisin said.

Superior’s local base is in Southfield, although emergency personnel can respond from various locations in the area.

Unruh said that Farmington Hills has enough units on the road to accommodate Farmington.

“I think it’s an excellent opportunity for both cities,” Unruh said. “The city of Farmington gains our five ALS ambulances to respond to their emergencies. (They) get our trained paramedics. Additionally, I think it’s a great partnership that we’ve created with the city of Farmington and their public safety officers on the road.”

Houhanisin said that transitioning to Farmington Hills for ALS services has been seamless.

“They’re great to work with,” he said. “We threw the switch on the 15th. It was like we’ve been doing this all along. … Any hiccups that come along are easy to smooth out because of our great relationship, and we look forward to a great future with them.”

Unruh shared a similar perspective.

“I think it’s an excellent arrangement,” he said. “It allows us to work alongside of the Farmington Public Safety officers and provide the best and appropriate care to Farmington residents, and I know that our staff is really enjoying that relationship,” he said. “I think the citizens are seeing benefit from it.”