Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has asked state lawmakers to allocate $5 million in general funds to help develop Emergency Medical Service capacity in the state.
“I believe we can do better for our citizens and the visitors of our state than simply hoping that someone will respond to a 911 call,” Gordon wrote. “Response to a 911 call must be a no-fail mission.”
EMS is not considered an “essential service” in the state, Gordon’s chief of staff Drew Perkins told the JAC, and there are already “vast stretches of Wyoming” where 911 responses are “getting pretty iffy.”
“We have had several EMS companies fail and go out of business recently,” Gordon’s policy director Renny MacKay said, echoing Perkins’ comments later in the meeting.
“Right now, if you call 911 in Wyoming, (you) will not be guaranteed to have an ambulance show up, because … there are communities where it’s not funded, and it doesn’t exist.”
Rural communities are “struggling the most” to provide EMS, Gordon’s health and human services policy advisor Jen Davis said, and “Fremont County has had significant problems over the last few years” as well.
The state has made “significant efforts” in recent years “to entice increased volunteerism in many of these places,” Perkins said, but “it’s not having the desired effect” because “there’s simply not enough volunteerism to cover those things.”
Wyoming also tried to use American Rescue Plan Act money to help local governments develop regional strategies to sustain their EMS systems, but Perkins said those projects were later determined to be ineligible for ARPA funding.
The $5 million Gordon requested from the Wyoming Legislature would allow those regionalization efforts to continue, Perkins said.
More than half of the money would be set aside to hire coordinators who could help local governments develop regional EMS plans, Davis said, explaining that many rural ambulance crews don’t have the “capacity” to organize their own strategic planning meetings.
“That’s what we heard from the industry and the counties,” Davis said. “They just don’t have the capacity to have these conversations. So that’s what this is about – building their capacity so they can actually be intentional and come to us with some very specific recommendations.”
The legislature’s upcoming session is set to convene Feb. 12.