Chief Kelly Cope Recognized as Emerging EMS Leader

Inspiring EMS leadership welcomes new achievements as Kelly Cope, a recent Ambulance Service Manager graduate from Fitch & Associates, was recognized with the Pinnacle Emerging EMS Leader Award, which honors rising executives in EMS who demonstrate excellence in the profession. Currently, Cope serves as Chief Executive Officer for Saint Charles County Ambulance District in Missouri, which is the state’s largest ambulance district, serving more than 400,000 citizens.

“I’m very proud to know Kelly and have had the privilege of teaching Pinnacle Power Seminars with him over the past few years, including one just this week,” said Anthony Minge, Fitch & Associates Senior Partner and Pinnacle Co-chair. “Kelly is a well-read individual, and he enjoys sharing the wealth of leadership knowledge he has absorbed and retained over the years.”

Cope began his career after taking an EMT course on a whim during college. He fell in love with EMS, and shortly thereafter began his paramedic training while working as an EMT in a super-rural Missouri community. Cope completed his paramedic training while working at a hospital-based program in urban Saint Louis and continued working in the high-volume, fast-paced urban environment for several years before moving to Saint Charles Ambulance District.

There, he served as a front-line paramedic and started taking on additional responsibility with special projects, including the implementation of electronic charting.

A voracious reader, he takes every opportunity to listen to business and leadership books, whether in the car or at home. He applied those leadership principles in his career as he took on increasing responsibility. He was elected Executive Steward of the Union before transitioning to management and serving as the Battalion Chief overseeing non-emergency transport, where he relished the role of training and mentoring younger personnel. He was later promoted to Assistant Chief of Operations, where he oversaw planning and construction of a new $32 million, 140,000 square foot operations and training facility, which opened shortly after he was promoted to Chief Executive Officer earlier this year.

He is passionate about his own leadership development, and in developing leaders around him. He recently launched an endeavor at (Saint Charles County Ambulance District (SCCAD) to create a multi-part series of education for its leadership team designed to give a more well-rounded perspective of their operations and of the EMS industry.

Cope is a 2019 graduate of the Ambulance Service Manager program and a graduate of the Priority Ambulance Foundation’s EMS Leadership of Tomorrow program. He has also been recognized as the Missouri EMS Association’s Paramedic of the Year.

Cope was recognized on Tuesday, Aug. 10 during the 15th annual Pinnacle EMS Leadership Forum at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix.

SCCAD Earns Highest Possible Moody’s Credit Rating

St. Charles County Ambulance District [SCCAD] has received a triple-A rating, the highest rating possible, from Moody’s Investors Service, a leading global credit rating, research and risk analysis firm.

The District applied for the bond rating in connection with an upcoming sale of $22,965,000 of the $70 million in bonds authorized by voters in August 2018. Moody’s released a report that describes the rationale for assigning the rating, including a modest debt burden, stable financial operations, and sizable reserves.

Joy Howard, the District financial advisor, noted that in addition to the State of Missouri, SCCAD is now one of only six governmental units in the state to have a Moody’s triple-A rating.

“Just as individuals benefit by having excellent credit scores, the Aaa rating will result in the lowest possible interest cost on the District’s bonds,” Howard said.

Ms. Howard indicated that the District will save approximately $640,000 of interest by having the highest bond rating compared to the next rating grade on its bond sale.

“The District’s trend of surplus operations and conservative budgeting practices contributed to the high rating,” said SCCAD Chief Kelly Cope.  “We are immensely proud to be among the small group of Missouri governments to achieve an Aaa rating and expect to continue achieving strong results going forward.”

The District plans to sell the bonds by competitive bidding on August 12.  Projects slated for completion utilizing funds generated by the bonds include acquisition of property for new ambulance stations, construction of said facilities, and purchase of advanced life support units and lifesaving equipment. 

SCCAD Debuts $32M Consolidated HQ Facility

Expanded training capacity, improved simulation labs, an enhanced emergency operations center, and comprehensive fleet maintenance capabilities are among the key features of St. Charles County Ambulance District’s [SCCAD] state of the art headquarters facility, which opened this week.  The facility was completed ahead of schedule and under budget by nearly $2 million.

“The opening of this facility represents a milestone in the history of our organization,” said SCCAD Chief Kelly Cope. “When planning every detail throughout the design and construction process, we considered the needs of the District not only today, but also decades into the future.” 

The new building consolidates operations from five existing SCCAD facilities – administration, training, and finance/human resources buildings in St. Peters, a logistics and fleet maintenance facility in Cottleville, and a non-emergency transfer hub in O’Fallon. 

“Though we’re excited about many facets of this all-inclusive project, we’re particularly enthusiastic about the training capabilities it affords our team and the community at large,” said Cope.  “The flexible space can accommodate over 200 individuals in a single room when fully utilized, enabling us to host a variety of training opportunities for first responders in our region.

In total, the facility measures just over 140,000 square feet; just over half of which is allocated to operational needs such as supply chain management and non-emergency transfer division.  Compared with existing facilities, the new building more than doubles the District’s in-house fleet maintenance capabilities.  In addition, the expansive garage space for the first time enables large specialty assets such as the AmbuBus and Major Incident Response Vehicle to be housed indoors out of the elements.

O’Fallon-based LCS Construction led general contracting efforts for the building, which was designed by ArchImages.  Navigate Building Solutions provided construction management services.  Hundreds of local trades professionals played an active role in bringing the facility online. Design discussions began in mid-2018, with construction commencing in January 2020.  The facility’s completion is approximately two months ahead of schedule and came in nearly $2 million below the budgeted $32.8 million. 

The consolidated headquarters is the largest project in the Ambulance District’s 10-Year capital improvement plan, which was financed by voters’ overwhelming approval of Proposition Ambulance – a general obligation bond issue, in August 2018.  The plan also includes construction of EMS stations in areas of growth, purchase of ambulances and other response vehicles, and procurement of lifesaving medical equipment. 

GFOA Awards SCCAD Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting

Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) has
awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting to St. Charles County Ambulance District for its comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019. The report has been judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, which includes demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the report.

The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.

SCCAD Chief Taz Meyer to Retire April 30; Asst. Chief Kelly Cope Named District’s Next Chief Executive

After 20 years of service with St. Charles County Ambulance District [SCCAD] and 35+ years in the emergency medical services industry, Chief Taz Meyer will retire on April 30.  Assistant Chief Kelly Cope, a 25-year veteran of the District, will take the reins as Chief on May 1.

Meyer’s time with SCCAD is divided into two eras – he spent four years as a paramedic from 1989 to 1993 before taking opportunities to lead several EMS education programs in the St. Louis region.  In 2004, he returned to SCCAD as Operations Coordinator, and was promoted to Chief in 2013.  Under Meyer’s leadership, SCCAD has experienced substantial growth in call volume and added several innovative, value-added programs for residents of the community including critical care transport, mobile integrated health, and the American Ambulance Association award-winning Substance Use Recovery Response Team.  During his tenure, the District was twice named ‘Service of the Year’ by the Missouri EMS Association [MEMSA].

“The ambulance industry has undergone a substantial evolution throughout my career, shifting from purely emergency response to a more holistic mobile healthcare model,” said Meyer. “I consider myself lucky to have worked with the innovative clinicians and support staff of SCCAD – I have no doubt that their commitment to excellence will continue under Chief Cope’s leadership.”

Cope, a MEMSA Paramedic of the Year winner, assumes the District’s most senior role after a three-year stint as Assistant Chief of Operations.  He is a member of the Priority Ambulance Leadership Foundation Class of 2020, and a graduate of Fitch & Associates Ambulance Service Manager program. Prior to his promotion to Assistant Chief, he led SCCAD’s non-emergency transfer division as Battalion Chief and spent two decades treating patients as a front-line paramedic.  Like Meyer, he credits SCCAD’s team of dedicated professionals for the organization’s success.

“Chief Meyer has been instrumental in the planning and development of numerous protocols and initiatives that have become models for other EMS providers regionally and even nationally,” said Cope.  “He has positioned us well to continue developing and promoting best practices to integrated community healthcare for the 400,000+ residents we serve.”

For residents of Missouri’s largest ambulance district, Meyer and Cope expect the transition in leadership to be seamless. The pair have worked closely for several years on day-to-day operations as well as large-scale initiatives such as the District’s consolidated campus facility, which is expected to debut this fall. 

Amid Pandemic, St. Charles Co. Seniors ‘Fill The Ambulance’ With Over 7,000 lbs. of Food

If you walk into retirement communities throughout St. Charles County during the month of December, you’ll undoubtedly see Christmas trees, menorahs and poinsettias decorating the lobbies, but there is another common item you may not expect – royal blue 40-gallon trash barrels.  Stickered with the Operation Food Search [OFS] tomato logo, these containers aren’t meant for garbage, but rather non-perishable food donations for the St. Charles County Ambulance District [SCCAD] ‘Fill the Ambulance with Food’ initiative.  Now in its 11th year, ‘Fill the Ambulance’ has become a hallmark of the holiday season for St. Charles County seniors, who weren’t going to let a pandemic stop them from helping heal hunger in their community.

This year’s event looked different than those of years past due to COVID-19. Seniors typically take advantage of multiple shopping trips organized by facilities to purchase items like canned vegetables, beans, cereal, and other items highly sought by food pantries. But to limit exposure to those most vulnerable, retirement communities have put a pause on shopping.

“Canceling ‘Fill the Ambulance’ was not an option,” said Debbie Coval, Executive Director of Park Place Senior Living in Winghaven. “Seniors across the county have taken ownership of this program, and feel strongly about helping those suffering from food insecurity during the holiday season.”

Retirement community leadership employed a variety of strategies to ensure everyone who wanted to donate was safely able to do so. Some utilized online ordering services to have their donations delivered, while others asked staff or family members to do shopping for them.   One community, Fairwinds Rivers Edge, even established a small-scale grocery store in their building to enable residents to select items for those in need.

“The innovation and determination demonstrated by these St. Charles County seniors is awe-inspiring.  At a time of heightened need, they are a true testament to the ability of a community to heal hunger in the region,” said Kristen Wild, OFS Executive Director.

Though the name suggests that donations were loaded into an advanced life support unit, seniors’ support of this initiative outgrew a single ambulance years ago. Thankfully, partner pantries are armed with a box truck that paramedics loaded with 7,128 lbs. of donated food on December 18.   Over $1,000 in cash donations were also collected for OFS.

Communities participating in ‘Fill the Ambulance with Food’ included: Twin Oaks at Heritage Pointe, Twin Oaks at Stone Ridge, Lakeridge Senior Apartments, Park Place Senior Living, Garden Villas of O’Fallon, Breeze Park, Lake St. Charles, Fairwinds River’s Edge, Clarendale of St. Peters and Brookdale St. Peters.  Freedom Fitness locations in Wentzville and Cottleville also participated in this year’s event.

Good As Gold: AHA Gives SCCAD High Marks for Cardiac Care

St. Charles County Ambulance District [SCCAD] paramedics once again earned Gold Plus status in the American Heart Association’s annual Mission: Lifeline program, which recognizes EMS agencies for their implementation of quality improvement measures for the treatment of patients who experience severe heart attacks.

Each year, more than 250,000 individuals experience a ST elevation myocardial infarction [STEMI], a type of heart attack caused by a blockage of blood flow to the heart that requires timely treatment.  To prevent death, it is critical to restore blood flow as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately, a significant number of these patients don’t receive this prompt attention.

The correct tools, training and practices allow SCCAD paramedics to rapidly these patients and trigger an early response from the awaiting hospital personnel.  Agencies that receive the Mission: Lifeline Gold award demonstrated compliance for each of four required achievement measures.  The ‘Plus’ distinction reflects that paramedics are consistently performing a 12-lead ECG on patients within 10 minutes on chest pain calls.  2020 marks SCCAD’s second Gold Plus honor, and its seventh overall Mission: Lifeline recognition.

“SCCAD paramedics play a vital part in the system of care for those who have heart attacks in our community,” said SCCAD Medical Director Dr. Leo Hsu.  “As the first medical point of contact, they perform life-saving interventions and shave precious minutes of treatment time off by activating the emergency response system that alerts hospitals.”

SCCAD paramedics and leadership staff are elated to be recognized at this high level, but are quick to highlight that it is their collaborative relationships with area hospitals that make it possible.

“We work collaboratively with our partners at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters, Progress West, SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital St. Charles and SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital Lake St. Louis to develop protocols with the goal of improving the quality of care for STEMI patients,” said John Romeo, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for SCCAD.

Cardiac care has been areas of focus for SCCAD in recent years; in 2015, the District was the first in the region to debut cardio-cerebral resuscitation [CCR] – an innovative approach to cardiac arrest management that saw a significant increase in survival to hospital discharge rates.

SCCAD Debuts New Wentzville, St. Peters EMS Stations

Last year, St. Charles County Ambulance District [SCCAD] responded to nearly 45,000 calls for service – a number that has grown by 50 percent over the last decade.  Rapid residential and commercial development, coupled with an aging population, have been the driving factors behind the upward trajectory in call volume.  This month, the District opened new EMS stations in St. Peters and Wentzville to serve these growing communities.

The stations, located on East Pearce Blvd. in Wentzville and Old Mill Parkway in St. Peters, are positioned in two of the District’s busiest response zones.  The new facilities are larger than the ones they replace, giving SCCAD the ability to increase paramedic staffing at these locations as needed in the future if needed.

The stations are the first infrastructure projects in the Ambulance District’s 10-year capital improvement plan, which residents of St. Charles County put into motion in 2018 with their overwhelming support of Prop. Ambulance, a general obligation bond issue.

In 2021, the District will take the next steps outlined in the 10-year plan – a reconfiguration of assets along Rt. 364 in St. Peters and in the Harvester area.  Currently, this area is served by a single ambulance.  Next year, two new stations will be constructed to spread the coverage more evenly throughout this highly populated area.

The forthcoming EMS stations will be located at the corner of Woodstone Dr. and Queens Brooke Blvd. in St. Peters, and at the intersection of Caulks Hill Rd. and Towers Rd. in Harvester.  The District aims to begin construction in the spring, and targets fall 2021 for their completion.

“When performing our community needs analysis, this area of the community was and continues to be a high priority,” said SCCAD Chief Taz Meyer.  “The Queens Brooke and Towers stations, coupled with support from existing facilities, will enable us to enhance coverage and provide better response times to 911 emergencies.”

Also part of the capital improvement plan is a consolidated campus facility that brings together the District’s training, administration, logistics & supply center, vehicle maintenance and non-emergency transfer division.  These areas of the operation are currently spread between five buildings in three municipalities.  The 147,000 sq. ft. campus is under construction on Salt River Rd. in St. Peters, and is set to open next year. 

Paramedics Launch #8KinMay Initiative

Since March, more than 25 million Americans filed for unemployment amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  Layoffs, furloughs and reductions in work hours have translated to increased requests for nutrition assistance at food pantries across the nation, including those served by St. Louis-based Operation Food Search [OFS].  St. Charles County Ambulance District [SCCAD] paramedics saw this critical need as an opportunity to repay the tremendous support and kindness that residents have shown first responders in recent weeks, and invite members of the community to join their #8KinMay effort to support OFS.

“The idea began as an internal collection among our team,” said Lieutenant Ashley Pease, who along with Paramedic Bill Norris, is leading the #8KinMay movement.  “The support was swift and resounding – scores of our team members have pitched in, and ultimately raised more than $4,000, which will be used by OFS to stock pantries throughout our county.”

With appeals for food assistance certain to increase in the days to come, Norris, Pease and the SCCAD team have a simple request for members of the community able to make a donation: join us.  Donations can be made directly to OFS using this link:

“By shining a light on this critical need in our community, our hope is that residents will be moved to make a contribution to help neighbors, matching our paramedics’ $4,000 donation for a total of $8,000,” said Norris.

OFS has seen a tremendous increase in demand for services since the onset of COVID-19.  The organization normally supports approximately 200,000 individuals monthly, and is seeing the need for emergency food supplies explode across the region as thousands of families are facing a loss of household income.

“The paramedics of St. Charles County have been long-standing partners in our effort to heal the hurt of hunger,” said Kristen Wild, Executive Director of OFS.  “Monies collected through their #8KinMay effort will fund vital OFS programs that provide nutritional support to children, seniors and families.

#8KinMay is not the first pairing of SCCAD and OFS; the organizations have collaborated during the holiday season for the past decade on ‘Fill the Ambulance with Food’ – an initiative that has collected 25,000 pounds of food from local retirement communities.

SCCAD Selected to Pilot Groundbreaking ET3 Model

St. Charles County Ambulance District [SCCAD] was one of only three emergency medical service agencies in the State of Missouri selected last week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services [CMS] to take part in a groundbreaking pilot program.  The initiative is called Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport – ET3 for short.  The model provides greater flexibility for paramedics to address the unique health care needs of patients.  Announced by CMS last year, the ET3 model creates a new set of incentives for emergency transport and care, ensuring patients get convenient, appropriate treatment by a variety of providers.

Under current CMS guidelines, patients who dial 911 are typically transported to an emergency department at a hospital, which is unquestionably appropriate in the case of serious medical events such as cardiac arrest, traumatic injury or stroke.  In lower-acuity situations, however, alternative treatment options, may be more appropriate and cost-effective for patients, which is where ET3 will come into play.

 “For years, EMS agencies have been paid to transport patients to emergency rooms.  Under the ET3 framework, our team of 200+ highly-skilled clinicians will have the latitude to confer with lower-acuity patients and perhaps recommend transport to an alternative, lower-cost destination such as an urgent care that can meet their needs,” said SCCAD Assistant Chief David Lewis. “Crews also will have the ability to initiate and facilitate treatment in place by a qualified health care practitioner via telehealth with a tablet device.”

SCCAD paramedics will work with a variety of healthcare partners to facilitate a robust array of options for ET3 patients, including multiple urgent care facilities and hospitals.  Ultimately, the initiative will work to reduce avoidable transports to emergency departments and unnecessary hospitalizations.

“Though the initiative was developed with Medicare/Medicaid insurance patients in mind, SCCAD is poised for multi-payer alignment, working with several commercial insurers to deliver enhanced treatment and transport options to their patients,” said Lewis.

ET3 is the latest in a series of cutting-edge EMS initiatives to debut in St. Charles County; in the past three years alone, SCCAD paramedics have launched multiple successful programs to address critical healthcare needs in their community, including the opiate epidemic, special needs pediatric patients, behavioral health emergencies, and hospital readmission avoidance.

204 agencies throughout 36 states selected to take part in ET3 will work over the coming weeks to develop program-specific protocols, with program launch occurring this spring.