Gov. Dannel P. Malloy cleared the way for the licensing of a volunteer group to assist with emergency medical calls in a growing Orthodox Jewish community in Waterbury.
Malloy has signed a special act that will allow Hatzalah of Waterbury to independently obtain a supplemental first responder license from the Department of Public Health.
Under current law, a municipality and its designated provider of emergency medical services have to approve these license applications. The legislation waives this requirement for Hatzalah of Waterbury.
Supporters of the legislation said the special act is narrowly tailored to address the situation in Waterbury.
The Orthodox yeshiva sect moved to Waterbury’s historic Hillside and Overlook neighborhoods in 2000, occupying the former University of Connecticut campus.
The local Hatzalah was founded shortly afterward. Its trained volunteers have been assisting on medical calls for a number of years despite lacking the special state license.
The network of volunteers includes doctors, nurses, paramedics and emergency medical technicians from the neighborhood.
Waterbury lawmakers told colleagues in the House and Senate that the licensing bill was important to the Orthodox Jewish community.
In addition to arriving quickly, leaders and members of the yeshiva sect told lawmakers earlier this year that licensed Hatzalah volunteers would assist first responders and comfort community members.
City legislators also reported Hatzalah members are able to explain Orthodox Jewish customs, religious laws and concerns to police, firefighters and ambulance workers.
They can also help ease the anxieties of community members in need of emergency medical help.
Despite the exception being made, Hatzalah volunteers remain barred from transporting people to hospitals and even riding in ambulances with community members.