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Lawmakers back the $10 million request to fund programs for EMTs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia EMS Coalition will request $10 million during the expected May special legislative session for what they describe as necessary programs.

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Volunteer Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services discussed the funding last week in the state capital.

Jody Ratliff

The funding would provide mental health resources and training, leadership and management classes, and opportunities to apply for a state grant for an EMT to obtain emergency medical certification, supporters said.

Jody Ratliff, executive director of the state Office of Emergency Services, said he believes the request fits exactly what is needed in the state.

“From an office perspective, I have a job to do, but from a paramedic perspective, I support their legislation in this state,” Ratliff said. “I think what they are presenting is perfect for what EMS needs across the state.”

Governor Jim Justice recently approved $10 million to fund EMT training, and Ratliff said the number has increased consecutively for the first time in a decade. Ratliff didn’t reveal the numbers and acknowledged that the gains are modest but that it’s a step in the right direction.

“For the second year in a row since, I think, 2011, we’ve had another net positive gain in the state, and that’s just EMTs,” Ratliff said. “It’s a small number, I’m going to lie, but I’ll tell you where I stand; that’s a small victory for us.”

Gov. Jim Justice

The leadership and management classes are critical for agencies to continue their activities. First responders have the crucial skills to save lives, put out fires and pull victims from car accidents, but sometimes they lack the essential skills needed to keep the books and pay bills, Ratliff said.

“If we teach the small agencies how to run their agencies and how to be profitable, at least break even; they are 501(c)(3) organizations – until then, be profitable,” Ratliff said. “When they float, the whole state floats. If they don’t load, we’ve seen it now; no one floats.”

Meanwhile, with an $83,179 grant, Ratliff told lawmakers they will hold the first-ever Emergency Medical Services Symposium for Children. The event will be held at the Summit Bechtel Reserve from September 29 to October 2.

“It’s the first multi-day pediatric symposium we’ve had in the state,” Ratliff said. “What I’m really excited about is that we have instructors from Shriner’s Children’s National Hospital, WVU Medicine, CAMC, Florida-based Pediatrics and the University of Kentucky – all of them have committed so far.”

Some of the planned training sessions cover head trauma, snake bites, breathing problems, child abuse and special needs for children. All hands-on activities will take place on day two and Ratliff said they will have access to all Boy Scout training facilities on site. For the children there are training courses on gun safety, CPR and stopping bleeding.

“The trucks with the hi-fi mannequins and the simulation trucks will also be involved,” says Ratliff. “Command will come in and set up a temporary medical command so healthcare providers can engage as they normally would and go through the scenarios.”