BY DAVE WILSON
West Virginia lawmakers are working on a plan they hope can provide some long-term stability for emergency medical services agencies struggling to keep their operations running.
According to Delegate Joe Statler, R-Monongalia, Gov. Jim Justice allocated $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to provide some relief for financially strapped agencies.
“We believe that we’ve got to shore up the long-term problem to even get to the short-term problems that are facing some of these companies that are still operating but on a shoestring,” Statler said during a recent interview on “Talk of the Town.”
Statler did not reveal details but said legislators believe they have a plan to start working with the federal dollars, although it is not the permanent fix needed to avoid future issues. Statler wants to work on possible solutions when lawmakers get together early next week for interim committee meetings.
“This is an issue that we should have been working on five to 10 years ago,” Statler said. “This problem here is huge.”
While Statler warned in December during another appearance on talk radio of the looming issues facing volunteer EMS operations, the problem hit close to home last week. The Star City Volunteer Fire Department announced that it suspended EMS services due to budget constraints.
“When you start getting areas like this in these counties that should be able to support this, it’s getting more alarming and more alarming every day,” Statler said.
In Tucker County, voters are being asked to support an excess levy when they go to the polls May 10, or risk being left with just a single emergency medical crew per shift. Tucker County EMS will not have the funds to support more people without the levy.
The futures facing Star City EMS and Tucker County EMS are just two examples of similar stories facing agencies across the state.
Even though Statler is optimistic lawmakers can come up with a viable plan to make certain such essential services are available, he is not sugar-coating the situation.
“It’s just mind-boggling how fast this is coming over top of us. To quite frankly tell you, we have not got the answer yet.”