Improving EMS in West Virginia: Three places to start

The challenges faced by emergency medical services (EMS) in the state’s communities vary, but they all share a common solution: the need for more funding. This brief post examines three essential aspects for reforming EMS in the Mountain State: information for policymakers, state-level funding, and increased capacity.

While other areas also require improvement, this post focuses on the most important opportunities. As more permanent and long-term solutions are explored, lawmakers should consider direct, one-time funding to EMS organizations providing 911 EMS. We must act quickly while also creating a system that works for the long term.

One commission, one comprehensive report

The Legislature should allocate funding for a commission to study EMS issues in West Virginia and hire consultants with expertise in this field to write a comprehensive report. Other states, such as Maine, have created special panels and provided the necessary funding to achieve this goal. I recognize that creating a government report is bureaucratic and slow, but we must gather information to inform our decisions in the coming years and decades.

A permanent, state-level funding source

West Virginia is the only state among its neighbors without a state-level permanent funding source for EMS. While some counties in the state have adopted special funding mechanisms for EMS, the amounts vary. This has led to significantly varied levels of service, response times, and even patient outcomes. Our communities and first responders are doing their best, but they need help.

Boost funding and capacity in the state’s Office of EMS

The West Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services is primarily a regulatory agency, but it needs more funding to bolster its capacity and staff. Several opportunities exist, ranging from offering additional support at a more regional level to providing increased technical support to counties.