STARS receives $2M boost

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

STARS air ambulance has had a good fundraising year thanks to a sold out lottery, but is still facing some funding uncertainty.

The air ambulance service is a critical way for those living in rural communities or working in remote areas to get rapid transport to medical services.

STARS works with municipalities across the province. Glenda Farnden, municipal relations liaison for the STARS Foundation, recently presented an update on STARS to Northern Sunrise County.

Farnden says when STARS began, it flew 50 missions every year. Last year, STARS flew just under 3,000 missions across Western Canada.

Locally, STARS flew 372 missions in the Peace Region between 2016-19, and Farnden says mission rates continues to rise.

“We have literally saved thousands of lives together. Going forward we continue to need you as much as your area and residents need us, so it is very much a lifesaving partnership,” Farnden says.

STARS is currently approaching 90 per cent rural municipal participation across Alberta, with several new towns and counties joining a municipal funding program this year.

“We are very much closing the loop on having a complete united effort across the province which is so important as far as annual sustain- ability of STARS services,” Farnden says.

STARS has a 10-year agreement with Alberta Health Services [AHS] for 20 per cent government funding. The contract expires next year.

“The only change to that is this year they kind of surprised us with a one-time top up of an additional $2 million,” Farnden says.

Farnden adds STARS is in “very high level discussions right now” as the 10-year agreement gets close to expiration.

“On top of that, site registration program largely used by industry has been down the last two or three years but rightfully so because they have not been as busy in the field. But that is starting to show glimpses of up and coming again, and starting to build, so we are very hopeful,” she says.

Farnden says this year’s STARS budget has not changed much in the last three years, and is fairly status quo.

For expenditures, Farden says, “Pretty much three-quarters of the pie is aviation and medical components.

“The smaller pieces continue to be the base operations and education, and we still for the third year in a row remain for administration costs at 15 per cent,” she adds.

Overall, Farnden says STARS has to find about $20 million a year through fundraising.

The largest fundraiser for the remaining roughly 76 per cent of funding not covered by the provincial government is the STARS lottery.

“Now the last few years we have not had a sellout and it has really hurt us, but this year in April we did have a sell out. That made a significant difference of about 1.5 million extra dollars coming from the lottery that normally we haven’t seen,” Farden says.

The lottery usually launches in January.

Farnden says buying a ticket to the lottery helps more than most people think.

“It makes a huge difference,” Farnden says.

STARS also has an annual calendar campaign that helps raise $800,000 to $1 million dollars for the service every year.

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