JOSHUA TREE — September has been designated as Support Morongo Basin Ambulance Month across the area as the nonprofit works to fund another emergency vehicle.
Since 1948, Morongo Basin Ambulance has provided emergency medical services and transportation during emergencies. It operates five ambulances that cover over 2,700 square miles of geographic area.
The directors and staff are asking the community to invest in their mission.
“We want to do this every September,” MBA Operations Chief Matthew Welsch said in a phone interview.
The fundraising goal is $100,000 for September — which could mean finding 1,000 people to donate $100 each, he said.
The $100,000 would help buy a new ambulance fully outfitted with a new gurney.
“Operationally, we’re pretty sustainable,” Welsch said. “We just want to make sure the community has the best and state-of-the-art services.”
Morongo Basin Ambulance does not receive any tax dollars. It is one of the only nonprofit ambulance services operating successfully in California, according to Welsch.
“We do not receive any tax dollars,” he said. “We are a nonprofit. Every dollar we make or is donated goes back into operations.”
Welsch and the board of directors are asking local governments to proclaim September Support Morongo Basin Ambulance Month. The Morongo Valley Community Services District did so on Aug. 20 and the Twentynine Palms City Council followed suit Tuesday.
“Seventy years ago, we were founded by seven volunteers from the community who saw a need and attempted to fill it,” Welsch told the Twentynine Palms council.
“Although we have grown quite a bit, at the core our mission continues to be the same, which is to be your community-based EMS organization.”
Steve Wilson, an MBA board member since early 2019, said the fundraiser is not a matter of covering basic operations.
“We’re able to keep afloat,” Wilson said. “We want to stay ahead of everything.”
Wilson, a retired Sheriff’s Department sergeant, is hopeful the community will respond.
“I want the public to know they are getting a top-notch quality professional staff and ambulances without money coming out of their pockets,” Wilson said. “We have been doing this for 71 years.”
Equipment and staffing costs are rising, especially with the minimum wage increase coming in January 2020, Wilson said. In the meantime, state reimbursements for Medi-Cal and Medicare have not increased.
The MBA coverage area stretches from Morongo Valley to Amboy, and from Joshua Tree to Johnson Valley.
Wilson said keeping five ambulances on the road at all times with three stations — Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms and Yucca Valley — is costly.
“We need a new ambulance every year and a half,” Wilson said. “We put so many miles on them.”
The MBA is led by an all-volunteer, unpaid board of directors. Currently the board has five members.
The MBA employs 45 full- and part-time people, including paramedics, emergency medical technicians, nurses and dispatchers providing advanced life support, basic life support and critical care services.
The nonprofit offers a membership program that covers individuals or all the members of a household. If the member has insurance, after the insurance pays its portion of the expense of an ambulance trip, MBA will write off any additional money owed by the patient. If the member doesn’t have insurance, the bill will be discounted by 50 percent.
Memberships cost $50 for individuals and $85 for families per year.
For more information on membership and other services, call (760) 366-8474 or visit www.mbambulance.org.