First and only EMS director retires after 30 years of service


Growing up during the turbulent late 1960s and early ’70s, Crothersville native Dennis Brasher was like many youth across America.

He didn’t really have much of a career plan, and any plans he might have had didn’t include going to work in a field related to responding to medical emergencies.

“I had no idea. I thought I’d probably stay in Crothersville and work at Nolting’s IGA,” Brasher said. “I thought that would be the ideal job to have or to maybe work at Cummins, but I didn’t really get out into the world and see all of the opportunities that were available.”

Brasher, however, wound up spending nearly 43 years serving the public by responding to medical emergencies around the county. The last 30 of those years, he served as the first and only director of Jackson County Emergency Medical Services.

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Today, however, will be his last day on the job.

The 1974 Crothersville High School graduate started his career in the medical emergency response field when he was offered a position as a dispatcher with Ross Ambulance in 1977. At that time, Ross provided ambulance service for Jackson County.

Prior to that, Brasher was a volunteer fireman in Crothersville.

After spending a year in dispatch with Ross Med-Aid ambulance service, Brasher would go on to work full time as a medical responder for the next decade before accepting the position of director for Bedford Medical Center’s Emergency Medical Services response team.

Three years later, Jackson County Ambulance Authority, now known as Jackson County Emergency Medical Services, was established by the county to replace Ross Med-Aid and Brasher was offered the position of director.

“They called me and wanted to talk to me about how I did that in Bedford,” he said. “It gave me an opportunity to return to Jackson County, where I grew up, so I applied for the job, and I’ve been here ever since.”

After accepting the position and being hired Dec. 7, 1990, Brasher said he was only given three weeks to get the system up and running by Jan. 1, 1991.

The new service would have four ambulances — one each for Brownstown, Crothersville and Seymour and a backup in Seymour. The Brownstown and Crothersville ambulances were initially housed at the fire stations in those towns. Paramedic ambulances are now in place in Brownstown, Crothersville and Seymour.

During his three decades with the department, Brasher has seen it undergo many changes. One area that has changed considerably would be the technology available to emergency medical responders.

Brasher said the county council and county commissioners have always been supportive and understanding and helped the agency get the most state-of-the-art equipment.

“I just think back to 43 years ago when we thought we were state of the art then. It’s nothing compared to today,” he said. “We thought we were hot dogs back then.”

Another advancement Brasher is proud of is the increase in employee pay.

In 2015, Brasher said he noticed his department was experiencing unusually high employee turnover. That’s when he decided to get to the root of the issue.

“Back in 2015, I had done an analysis on pay rates because we were losing about 30 to 40% of our employees every year,” he said. “I found out we were paying our employees 28% less than local similarly sized emergency response units.”

Brasher recognized this as a potential cause for employee turnover and went to the county council with a solution.

“I knew the council wouldn’t give us a 28% raise, so I gave it a lot of thought, and I went into them with a proposal of increasing our wages 9% each year for the next three years, and we were able to get that,” he said. “That has really helped our turnover big time. That has really helped us procure good paramedics and good EMTs (emergency medical technicians) in the area.”

He also is proud of the partnership between the department, Schneck Medical Center in Seymour and Columbus Regional Health in Columbus to better assist heart attack patients.

Before the partnership, heart attack patients would have to be driven hours to hospitals in larger cities, but now, they are able to use EKG heart monitors to identify patients suffering from heart attacks and take them to closer facilities.

“That has saved a lot of lives,” Brasher said. “We used to have to take heart attack patients to Indianapolis or Louisville. Now, if we recognize that in the field, we just stop by the ER, let the doctor come out, he jumps in the ambulance and confirms it and starts them on a heparin drip. We’re in and out of there in 2 or 3 minutes at most.”

Brasher said the national goal is to get the stent in the patient’s heart within 90 minutes of recognizing the heart attack. Now, he said they are far exceeding that.

“We’re blowing that out of the water. We’re getting that done in 70 to 75 minutes,” he said.

Despite never having intentions of joining the emergency medical response field, Brasher found a career he feels thankful to have enjoyed for as long as he did.

“I’m really blessed,” he said. “I feel really blessed because every day I come to work, I enjoy coming to work. Every day is a different challenge, and you don’t know what you’re getting into, and there are a lot of people that can’t say that.”

As far as how he’s going to spend his newly found free time, Brasher said he already has a few plans.

He currently works as a blacksmith, or someone who records statistics and video for games and practice with the Columbus East High School football program.

“My passion is high school football,” he said. “I really enjoy that. It’s a fun time, and they’re great people to work with.”

Since he started with the team in 2014, Brasher said the team has won a state championship and was state runner-up two years.

Brasher also holds a part-time position as administrator with the Moose Lodge in Seymour, something else he plans to dedicate more time to now.

“We do a lot of great stuff for underprivileged kids,” he said.

The Moose Lodge operates a campus in Illinois near Chicago, where they take in children and provide them with schooling up to college and house them.

“I’ve got a lot of personal projects that I want to do there, remodeling rooms and such,” he said. “So I’ll keep busy.”

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