A state coalition of Emergency Medical Service workers brought their causes and concerns to the West Virginia Legislature on Thursday. Recruitment and maintaining mental health loom as two challenges that need to be met.
Emergency medical technicians and related personnel came in from around the state, at least as many who could break free from their jobs.
West Virginia has lost more than 1,900 EMTs over the past three years. The workforce is short by a third. Clinton Burley, CEO of HealthNet medical transport and services said Gov. Jim Justice’s “Answer the Call” EMT recruitment program, along with streamlining changes in certification and training need to be continued, if not increased.
“Out of the governor’s initiative, we have another 293 New EMTs that are working throughout the state right now and more in training,” Burley said. “We’ve got to continue that process. We’ve got to work on making continuing education available in rural communities to retain those providers who are out there now. We’ve got to work at the high school level to make EMS education a core part of what they’re doing to get people involved in their community.”
Burley said he’s encouraged by state infinitives under consideration to offer more mental health services to stressed, overworked EMTs who see life or death trauma on a regular basis.
“Mental health crises among EMS providers is at unprecedented levels. This is very difficult work and our providers see people at some of the most challenging moments of their lives and these things stick with them,” Burley said. “Being able to tie mental health into the lifeblood of EMS will help with retention. The governor has visibility with that and the legislature has visibility with that and the hope is that through these combined efforts we’re going to have a very structured middle health care program for West Virginia’s clinicians. It’ll make a difference.”
West Virginia’s Emergency Medical Services coalition was recognized by the House and Senate on Thursday as heroes. Almost to a man and woman, ‘boots on the ground,’ EMTs say, they’re just doing their job.