FARMINGTON — High school athletic directors and school administrators at four area high schools have good news this week as they prepare for a new term marked by budget cuts and scaled-back programs.

Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington has announced it will defer its fees for the usual subcontracted athletic training coverage it provides for Mt. Abram, Mt. Blue, Jay and Livermore Falls high schools for one year.

The total value of the services is about $25,000, said Marie Wade, director of Physical Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine at Franklin Memorial.

The decision came after the SAD 58 board eliminated the contracted position at Mt. Abram, Wade said Monday. The hospital’s administrators discussed the situation and decided to “give back to the community” by waiving fees for all schools.

“We did not want to see them go without the service,” she said.

The hospital will review the arrangement at the end of the year, Wade said. For years, Franklin Memorial has been picking up about half of the actual cost of the service by only charging districts $12 an hour instead of the actual $25.

Franklin Memorial Hospital’s athletic trainers are Dan Waterman Jr. and Jeremy Starbird. Waterman aids athletes at Mt. Blue and Livermore Falls High School, while Starbird works with Mt. Abram and Jay High School athletes, according to a news release.

Each provides game and practice coverage and are on-site to administer immediate medical attention when an athlete is injured. Trainers also provide guidance and assistance to coaches during preseason conditioning and throughout the season.

During the course of a typical school year, Waterman and Starbird collectively provide approximately 1,300 treatments for injuries, according to Wade.

They manage the care of injuries as well as coordinate treatment with other health-care providers such as primary care physicians, emergency departments, orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists.

Wade said she was unaware of another hospital in Maine that offered athletic trainers at no cost to their school districts.

“When you think about what makes up community, children and high school athletes are a large part of that. They are our community,” she said Monday.

“Athletic trainers are a big, big component of injury prevention and accurate acute injury management. If we can prevent injuries with this group, or, if they do get hurt, make sure the injury is managed effectively, we can hopefully prevent it from becoming a long-term problem so the young athletes can grow up and play ball with their own kids.”

Mt. Abram’s athletic director Jeff Pillsbury said he feels tremendous relief.

“This is just wonderful. I was very anxious about what we were going to do without Jeremy and now, I am so relived. It is a great service, from dealing with injuries as they occur and helping prevent injuries to helping kids get back on the field,” he said.

“Everyone is being hit in these tough economic times, and for them to reach out and support us in this way is very generous,” he said.

Pillsbury said the district spent about $6,000 a year for Starbird’s services. Although there was some discussion on how to pay for a trainer for the 2010-11 school year by fundraising, nothing was finalized.

“We were hoping someway, somehow, we could come up with the money,” he said.

Todd Demmons, Mt. Blue’s assistant principal and athletic director, said most people don’t realize the job the trainer does because the work is behind the scenes.

“It is invaluable,” he said. “Dan is always out there, making sure kids are safe.”

Mt. Blue’s budget for athletic training is about $10,000 a year.

At Jay High School, Principal Gilbert Eaton said the district spends nearly $6,000 a year to contract with the hospital for the services of trainer Jeremy Starbird.

“This announcement comes at a difficult time for schools,” he said. “There is less money to spend and districts are letting programs go and people go.”

“For any type of sports injury or conditioning program we have, Jeremy is at the center of it. When you know you have a trained trainer on staff, there is a huge relief and a tremendous sense of assurance, knowing someone is there who knows what the injury is, how to rehabilitate it quickly, and also when to say we need to call an ambulance,” Eaton said.

Sally Boivin, the athletic director at Livermore Falls High School, said the school spends about $100 a month to have Waterman provide services once a week. The rest of the time it contracts with a private emergency-medical technician. That arrangement may change this year with FMH contracting extra hours for an additional fee, she said.

“It is a great service and we greatly appreciate it,” she said.

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