CHARLESTON, W.Va. – In response to the dwindling number of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professionals, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Jim Justice announced a new initiative that will be launched to address the state’s need.

The new “EMS WV: Answer the Call” program will use $10 million provided by the Emergency Management Crisis Fund to 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.”

The Emergency Management Crisis Fund was created back in December 2021 by Gov. Justice by allocating $10 million of West Virginia’s remaining CARES Act dollars into a fund meant to provide resources to first responders across the state.

West Virginia’s Community and Technical College System (CTCS) worked with legislators and EMS community partners to bolster the Answer the Call program by reviewing “current education and training opportunities for Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and paramedic careers.”

Investments will include: “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.”

Alongside their research into the “EMS pipeline,” they are currently working on a communications campaign and purchasing five mobile ambulance simulators, managed by Healthnet Aeromedical Services.

23 awards have already been provided to 21 training facilities by the CTCS office, totaling $870,000. In addition, 5,500 EMS packs containing essential EMS equipment and supplies are being sourced to EMS workers across the state.

Organizations, with the training capacity in their programs, who are interested in applying for Answer the Call can do so by emailing emsinitiative@wvhepc.edu.

The initiative will be presented today to the Joint Committee on Volunteer Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services.