Gov. Jim Justice announced today the launch of a new initiative to address the state’s need for additional trained Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professionals – a challenge that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funded through a $10 million portion of West Virginia’s allocation of CARES Act dollars, the new EMS WV: Answer the Call program will fund strategic initiatives that will bolster the state’s EMS workforce and equip communities to better care for West Virginia citizens now and into the future.

“As we’ve seen over and over again during the pandemic, our EMS workers are absolute heroes. Whenever we need help, they are always the first ones to run to the fire. But heroes like these don’t grow on trees. They’re few and far between and we need to act now to bring more of them into our state,” Gov. Justice said. “Through these new and expanded efforts to train more EMS professionals, not only will we reduce the burden on our existing workers, but we will also grow this profession in our state, safeguarding West Virginians for generations to come.”

In December 2021, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia would allocate $10 million of its remaining CARES Act dollars to establish an Emergency Management Crisis Fund – providing resources to help first responders across the state. At the Governor’s direction, West Virginia’s Community and Technical College System (CTCS) has worked alongside legislators and EMS community partners to review current education and training opportunities for Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and paramedic careers, examine the gaps and needs, and form a strategy for expanding this critical workforce.

The Governor’s strategy includes investing in mobile ambulance simulators to allow educational programs to reach all of West Virginia – including the most rural and remote areas of the state, development of no-cost EMT training, training around mental health, EMS leadership, and geriatric EMS, medic packs for every EMS worker in West Virginia, investments to keep behavioral health providers in rural communities to limit the burden on EMS transportation, and a public relations campaign regarding EMS careers.

Work is currently underway to examine all available data sources regarding the EMS pipeline, current supply, and anticipated future demand. A communications campaign built around the theme “Answer the Call” is also being developed to help West Virginians seeking careers in these fields access the right information. Additionally, the state is purchasing five mobile ambulance simulators for local training opportunities, which will be managed by Healthnet Aeromedical Services.

To provide no-cost EMT training, the CTCS office has already provided 23 awards to 21 training facilities, totaling $870,000. Applications are still being accepted and organizations are encouraged to apply as soon as possible by emailing emsinitiative@wvhepc.edu if they have training capacity in their programs. In addition, 5,500 EMS packs – large, sturdy bags containing essential EMS equipment and supplies – are being sourced to help arm every EMS worker in the state with the tools they need to be successful in the field.

A snapshot of the initiative and current progress will be presented today to the Joint Committee on Volunteer Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services – a legislative interim committee focused on this and related issues