The Citizen, Auburn, N.Y.
Cayuga County Sheriff Brian Schenck said Lon Fricano has made Cayuga County better over the past 30 years.
Fricano, 72, is the longtime director of operations for TLC Emergency Medical Services, Auburn’s longtime ambulance provider, and his first day of retirement was Jan. 1. Schenck praised Fricano’s decades of service in the area, including his work as an emergency medical technician and his effort helping people with drug addiction, adding that Fricano has saved “countless lives.”
Fricano is a co-founder and the president of the Cayuga County Heroin Epidemic Action League, and he helped with the United Way of Cayuga County for years. With the latter group, he co-chaired three campaigns, which raised nearly $4 million.
“He’s done so much work to help people in need, to fill in gaps in services where they’re needed in our community and to help people that are struggling with addiction, he’s done so much in that arena,” Schenck said. “He really has a passion for helping those that struggle with drug abuse, and trying to help them find a path to recovery, so he’s been quite an advocate in our community for people in that arena. I believe we just can’t measure the impact that he’s had helping people in our community.”
While Fricano, who also ran TLC’s Auburn division manager, will still be with the company’s senior management on a consultant basis, he felt it was time to step away from day to day first-responder work. His paramedic privileges recently expired, but he will still assist as an EMT from time to time as needed. He also plans to volunteer with the Union Springs Fire Department, as he lives in that village. On Jan. 4, Fricano was informed Scott Cary, who is taking over for him as the Auburn division manager, has COVID-19, so Fricano is filling in for a few days, mostly doing paper work.
That said, Fricano simply felt he was too old to be on a two-person crew for a medical call, for example.
“If I got five or 10 guys around, I might help them out, but I’m going to be 73 years old on my next birthday, and there comes a time when you look at it and you go ‘You know what? It’s time to go home,'” he said. “As much as I love it and I miss it and the people and the work, I don’t want to be somebody who can’t do the job the way it has to be done.”
Hailing from Long Island, Fricano has been an EMT for over 50 years. He was recruited to come to Auburn in 1988 to improve the city’s ambulance services. By 1992, he was asked to take over operational control of Eastern Paramedics, Inc., Auburn’s paramedic service at the time. He had been been the director for TLC since 2006, when it took over for the Rural/Metro ambulance service.
Fricano said he is thrilled by the advancement of patent care in Cayuga County over the years, and he encouraged TLC to use the latest best practices and technology. He added that company-wide training is implemented at TLC so employees can continually learn, but said he is happy that emergency medical services continually evolve. He noted he is extremely proud of what TLC has accomplished, proudly noting the prowess of the employees and that the company’s average response time is around three-four minutes.
“I have every confidence that Scott will do an excellent job for as long as we are lucky enough to have him,” Fricano said. He also noted Cary is careful about cleanliness, yet he still contracted COVID-19. Fricano also said the outbreak caused changes in TLC’s operations.
Fricano noted that he is working a book about his experiences and will still be with HEAL and has other organizations he is involved with. The reason Fricano stuck around in the area so far, he said, is that he cares so much about the people of Auburn and Cayuga County. Recently the Throop Fire Department posted about Fricano retiring on their Facebook page, and at least 350 people have reached out to him since, he said, telling him stories, such as that he saved their lives or the lives of their family members. He said hearing from so many people has been impactful.
“When push comes to shove,” he said, “what is really important in this life? Each other, the people you love, and to be able to to step into an emergency and give someone back their love or be able to prevent a loved one from passing away, I don’t think I can even describe how that feels.”
Though Fricano is retiring, don’t expect him to give up on fighting addiction in Cayuga County and helping people get the recovery help they need. He was prompted into this mission by seeing the effects of addiction while on calls. Those who are addicted, he emphasized, are human beings worthy of empathy and love and not mere statistics. The sounds that people have made upon finding out their loves ones have died in any incident while on a call are haunting, he said, particularly those from the loved ones of people who have died from overdoses. He recalled one particularly harrowing situation where he told a mother that her son died from an overdose. The resulting scream she unleashed, Fricano continued, was unforgettable.
“It lives in my brain to this day,” he said.
With experiences like that in mind, HEAL and working with other recovery organization is particularly important to him.
Overall, Fricano is proud of his time in Auburn.
“I go into my retirement with a deep sense of pride of having accomplished what I came here to do, which was to improve and solidify emergency medical services in the city of Auburn and improve things in Cayuga County,” he said.
As a longtime law enforcement officer in the area, Schenck said he has responded to a number of scenes with Fricano over the years. Schenck thinks he may be seeing Fricano even more now and praised Fricano’s commitment to the area.
Courtney Seamans, the nurse manager of the emergency room at Auburn Community Hospital, praised Fricano as well. She recalled a moment where he brought in someone who was struggling with addiction while Fricano wasn’t working, and stayed with the man. Seamans said Fricano was the person at TLC who interacted with the emergency room to see how the relationship between the ER and EMS were going and helped facilitate education between the two.
“He’s a many of many hats, very professional, willing to jump in, whenever needed,” Seamans said. He’s like a go-to man.”
Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.
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