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Grant funds to help Gundersen Tri-State, EMS statewide continue 'vital role' in health and safety

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Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance was among the EMS providers awarded state funding Tuesday afternoon, with dollars to support the work and necessary equipment for first responders.

EMS grants

Gov. Tony Evers announces state grants to EMS providers, including Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance, during a Tuesday visit to Westby. 

During stops in Wausau, Peshtigo and Westby, Gov. Tony Evers and Wisconsin Department of Health Services secretary-designee Karen Timberlake introduced the grants and toured fire departments and municipal buildings, highlighting the importance of investing in EMS services.

“Our first responders play an absolutely vital role in the safety and security of our communities, and no matter what the emergency or where we live, we count on EMS providers to be there for us when we need them most,” said Evers.

Kelly Haines

Kelly Haines

“But for too long, EMS providers and our local partners have been doing more with less, having to make tough decisions and even reduce or cut services that keep our communities safe,” Evers continued. “These folks know their communities best, so we’re getting them the resources with the flexibility to decide what they need to best serve their communities, keep Wisconsinites safe, and do their important work.”

Evers in his 2022 State of the State address announced a $20 million investment to support EMS providers statewide, with $12 million allocated for one-time flexible grants for smaller, under-resourced EMS providers ineligible for certain state grants and the remaining $8 million reserved for Funding Assistance Program grants.

“The EMS industry has been in crisis mode for some time and COVID didn’t really help at all — it made it a little more difficult for us,” Kelly Haines, clinical manager of Ambulance Services & EMS Education at Gundersen, told the Tribune. “(EMS providers play) a vital role in the safety and security of our communities — they are out morning, noon and night dedicated to giving the best care possible to those in crisis.”

Public ambulance service providers, including volunteer fire departments, nonprofits and county and municipality services, qualified for FAP grants, which can be used for new ambulances, safety upgrades to current vehicles, medical, mobilization and patient transport equipment and more. All recipients were awarded an additional supplemental grant $24,390.

The grants, says Haines, will “support the industry immensely. Any financial assistance goes back into taking care of those who take care of our patients and ensuring the quality care in the community. We can’t thank Gov. Evers enough for the funding to allow the EMS to grow and expand.”

Gundersen will use the funding to purchase specialized equipment and additional PPE, and for recruitment and retention efforts. “As we work to educate and draw people into the EMS profession. It’s a hard but rewarding profession helping those at their most vulnerable and serious times,” Haines said.

When it comes to emergency medical care, Timberlake says, every minute counts, and the investment “gives a boost to our state’s EMS providers who are facing many challenges and risking their lives every day to protect the health and safety of their communities.”

Other area EMS providers to receive funding include Arcadia Ambulance Service, Chippewa Falls Fire & Emergency Services, La Farge Area Emergency Medical Service and Tomah Area Ambulance Service.

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