A 20-year-veteran EMT who got his start in Shelton will become Trumbull's new executive director of EMS.
Joseph Laucella stood out among 40 during the search for a candidate for the new position, which was finalized Thursday night by the Trumbull Town Council. He starts March 25.
Laucella is a Shelton resident, married and father of two young girls. He is a St. Joseph High School alumnus and started as an EMT at age 16 in Shelton.
Laucella said when he first started, he was eyeing becoming a police officer. But then, "I decided I loved [EMS]," he said Friday in Town Hall, where the news was announced in the presence of the first selectman, the police chief and TEMS officials.
"I found a love for the Fire Department and EMS. It helped give me a sense of discipline and pride," Laucella said.
He will be commanding an ambulance corps in Trumbull of about 40 volunteers in a town that received 4,085 calls last year. Trumbull also has a total of 25 group homes, assisted living centers and nursing homes. There are three ambulances, but not all three are usually staffed at once.
Last year, Shelton logged 4,700 calls, 25 percent of which came from nursing homes in that city, Laucella said. Shelton's ambulance corps has 130 volunteers, 20 paid staff and seven ambulances.
Trumbull EMS used to have about 120 volunteers at its peak but membership has declined since then. A recent audit revealed that TEMS needs to handle more calls in town, a task that Laucella accomplished for Shelton.
He took the Shelton corps from three ambulances to seven and the service now answers 99 percent of its calls, said First Selectman Tim Herbst.
At times, all seven ambulances were in service at the same time, Laucella said.
Laucella said he wanted to start the membership drive at the teenage level. A teenager must be 16 by the time he or she takes the EMS exam.
"We're going to be entrenched in the community," Laucella said. "We want to be the face they know."
An EMT class is scheduled to start in March at TEMS. Laucella said serving in EMS reflects well on a resume, gives students a skill they can turn into a job and fulfills service hours required for graduation.
"I think it's a good opportunity for teenagers," he said.
The new executive director also wants to focus on emergency preparedness in light of storms Alfred, Sandy and Irene and Winter Storm Nemo. He proposed interactions between neighboring EMS services, and working closely with the Trumbull police and the three fire volunteer fire departments.
To Privatize or Not
Trumbull EMS' problems are not unique, as many services are struggling with a declining number of volunteers and contemplating hiring EMTs. Many are hybrids, like Trumbull.
Herbst said, "It's very easy to privatize." But if a service can be improved without it, it's worth a try, he added.
Trumbull EMS will "provide first-class, quality service," Herbst said.
Laucella's work on Shelton's service convinced Herbst to pursue an alternative to privatization. A panel made of officials from the TEMS Commission, the Board of Finance, the office of the Fire Marshal, a town attorney, Police Chief Thomas Kiely and a resident interviewed him.
"There is no doubt in my mind that under Mr. Laucella's leadership, TEMS will become the model emergency medical service provider in Connecticut," Herbst said.
Laucella also helped create a regional mutual aid ambulance and established an internal billing department and a community training center serving all levels of providers. It also offered free monthly CPR and first aid courses, Herbst said.
In a statment, Laucella thanked the town for its confidence in him.
"I am truly excited to bring my experiences to the town of Trumbull and work with my new team. We will work together to expand our service, continue to provide excellent patient care, support our community, provide our residents with training and ensure that each and every Trumbull resident who requires our assistance receives the highest level of professional care that is available," he said.